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Meike Ramon; Super-Recognizers in Criminal Investigation – Hype or Hope?. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):137a. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.137a.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Over the past years, there has been an increasing interest in so-called “Super-Recognizers” (SRs) – individuals with above average face processing capacities. Originating from the field of neuropsychology, our knowledge of this infant field is extremely limited, with an abundance of outstanding questions. Despite these considerable knowledge gaps, there is an increasing demand for application of SRs in law enforcement. Private companies offering SR services are emerging, as are associations providing certificates to paying members seeking new professional opportunities. The main problem is that the actual benefit of real-life SR deployment remains unestablished. Bridging the lab-world gap, this study involved collaborations with international law enforcement agencies (State Polices in Germany and Switzerland). Individuals with superior face cognition were tested to assess their ability to correctly identify perpetrators based on CCTV footage from criminal investigations conducted by the Cantonal Police of Fribourg (Switzerland). Importantly, different observer groups were tested, including SRs reported previously in the literature, or identified through large-scale online testing, as well as individuals identified through on-the-job performance, and forensic facial examiners. The results demonstrate important limitations of procedures commonly used for SR identification, which did not reliably predict superior perpetrator identification. The implications of these findings in terms of real-life SR deployment, and progress in the domain of SR research are clear. On the one hand, careful and diligent interdisciplinary exploration should precede commercial exploitation. On the other hand, they highlight the need for optimized research design enabling systematic assessment of various aspects of ecologically meaningful face processing abilities.
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