The distinctiveness effect in fingerprint identification: How the role of distinctiveness, information loss, and informational bias influence fingerprint identification

Jessica L Marcon, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Fingerprint misidentification has become a concern for legal professionals, especially after the high profile misidentification of Brandon Mayfield as the Madrid train bomber and the first fingerprint related DNA exoneration of Stephen Cowans. The current studies examined how humans perceive the distinctiveness of fingerprints, whether distinctiveness effects found in face perception research are evident in fingerprint identification, and whether there are conditions under which the distinctiveness effect can be eliminated. Experiment 1 examined the distinctiveness effect and information loss, while Experiment 2 investigated the distinctiveness effect and its interaction with information loss and informational bias. In Experiment 1, results showed that participants demonstrated the distinctiveness effect on discrimination accuracy and response criterion, and that information loss (latent prints vs. plain prints) influenced discrimination accuracy. While the interaction between distinctiveness and information loss failed to reach the conventional level of significance, planned comparisons revealed that the distinctiveness effect was present only when complete perceptual information was available. Experiment 2 replicated the findings of Experiment 1 in demonstrating the effects of distinctiveness on response criterion, information loss on discrimination accuracy, and a significant interaction of these two variables on discrimination accuracy. Experiment 2 also demonstrated that informational bias influenced both discrimination accuracy and response criterion, and that this manipulation interacted with both the distinctiveness and information loss variables. Consistent with predictions, distinctiveness effects were observed only when the least amount of informational bias was present and when complete perceptual information was available. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Experimental|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Marcon, Jessica L, "The distinctiveness effect in fingerprint identification: How the role of distinctiveness, information loss, and informational bias influence fingerprint identification" (2009). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3358893.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI3358893

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