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Face value: testing the utility of contextual face cues for face recognition

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The presence of multiple faces during a crime may provide a naturally-occurring contextual cue to support eyewitness recognition for those faces later. Across two experiments, we sought to investigate mechanisms underlying previously-reported cued recognition effects, and to determine whether such effects extended to encoding conditions involving more than two faces. Participants studied sets of individual faces, pairs of faces, or groups of four faces. At test, participants in the single-face condition were tested only on those individual faces without cues. Participants in the two and four-face conditions were tested using no cues, correct cues (a face previously studied with the target test face), or incorrect cues (a never-before-seen face). In Experiment 2, associative encoding was promoted by a rating task. Neither hit rates nor false-alarm rates were significantly affected by cue type or face encoding condition in Experiment 1, but cuing of any kind (correct or incorrect) in Experiment 2 appeared to provide a protective buffer to reduce false-alarm rates through a less liberal response bias. Results provide some evidence that cued recognition techniques could be useful to reduce false recognition, but only when associative encoding is strong.
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Keywords: Cued recognition; associative memory; eyewitness identification; face recognition; multiple perpetrators

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Clinical Psychological Sciences, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands 2: Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK

Publication date: November 26, 2018

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