RECOGNITION MEMORY FOR IDENTICAL, MORPHED, AND NEW FACES

Open Access
Author:
Zimmerman, Ethan
Area of Honors:
Psychology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Nancy Anne Coulter Dennis, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • morphed faces
  • parent faces
  • eyewitness testimony
  • facial recognition
  • conjuncture faces
  • false memory
Abstract:
Are eyewitnesses really reliable sources who should be used to identify criminals? That question has been highly debated because eyewitness testimony is still being used today as evidence in the conviction of criminals. It is therefore vital that these witnesses identify the correct criminal, but is that always the case? To understand the processes involved in episodic memory, it is pertinent to first realize that people encode significant amounts of information every day, whether they want to or not. Therefore, it is how this information is processed, sorted, and stored that allows people to selectively retrieve knowledge as necessary, which comes into play when witnesses must recollect their memory of a crime. Consequently, this study, in the context of false memory, aims to investigate that highly debated question and determine the degree to which people confused similar faces for those actually studied in a recognition memory task. In this study, participants viewed photographs of faces at encoding, and then saw target faces, related morphed faces at various gradients, or unrelated new faces at retrieval. Results showed that participants could not distinguish between a target face and a very similar morphed face. These results suggest that eyewitnesses are not well-able to distinguish between a suspect of a crime and someone who is extremely similarly looking to that suspect. Accordingly, it is theorized that memory recognition is in large part explained by the fuzzy-trace theory, as well as the dual process theory, as it is clear that memories are influenced by reconstructive processes. Future investigation of this issue will analyze recognition as a function of time delay.