Does constructing a facial composite affect eyewitness memory? A research synthesis and meta-analysis

Colin G. Tredoux*, Siegfried L. Sporer, Annelies Vredeveldt, Kate Kempen, Alicia Nortje

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

75 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: We conducted a meta-analysis to assess whether the construction of facial composites affects witnesses’ lineup identification decisions. Methods: We located 23 studies (56 effects, 2276 participants). We consider effects of constructing composites on (a) correct identifications, and (b) incorrect identifications, from target-present lineups, and (c) incorrect identifications from target-absent lineups. Log odds ratio effect sizes were entered into a random-effects meta-analysis. We also present novel signal detection theory analyses in an online supplement. Results: There were no significant negative effects of composite construction, but some weak evidence that composite construction reduced incorrect identifications in target-present lineups. Because effect sizes showed little hetereogeneity for any of the outcomes (after outlier removal), there were no moderator analyses. Results for SDT measures also showed no effects. Conclusions: Empirical evidence suggests no effects of composite construction on identifications. We identify gaps in knowledge and make recommendations for more ecologically valid research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-741
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article was made possible with the support from the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR). SADiLaR is a research infrastructure established by the Department of Science and Technology of the South African government as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). The research was also supported by two grants to the second author: Recognizing Faces of Other Ethnic Groups by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Science Foundation): Grant Nr. Sp272/9-1) and Reducing False Identifications of Other-race People through new Computer Techniques (SUA 07/028) by the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the German Ministry of Science and Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Composite construction
  • Eyewitness
  • Face composite
  • Identification
  • Meta-analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Does constructing a facial composite affect eyewitness memory? A research synthesis and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this