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The psychology of face construction: Giving evolution a helping hand

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Vicki Bruce, Dr Sandra Jackson


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Face construction by selecting individual facial features rarely produces recognisable images. We have been developing a system called EvoFIT that works by the repeated selection and breeding of complete faces. Here, we explored two techniques. The first blurred the external parts of the face, to help users focus on the important central facial region. The second, manipulated an evolved face using psychologically-useful ‘holistic’ scales: age, masculinity, honesty, etc. Using face construction procedures that mirrored police work, a large benefit emerged for the holistic scales; the benefit of blurring accumulated over the construction process. Performance was best using both techniques: EvoFITs were correctly named 24.5% on average compared to 4.2% for faces constructed using a typical ‘feature’ system. It is now possible, therefore, to evolve a fairly recognisable composite from a 2 day memory of a face, the norm for real witnesses. A plausible model to account for the findings is introduced.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Frowd CD, Pitchford M, Bruce V, Jackson S, Hepton G, Greenall M, McIntyre AH, Hancock PJB

Publication type: Article

Journal: Applied Cognitive Psychology

Year: 2011

Volume: 25

Issue: 2

Pages: 195-203

Print publication date: 01/02/2010

ISSN (print): 0888-4080

ISSN (electronic): 1099-0720

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1002/acp.1662


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