Human memory is a notoriously unreliable thing that can be easily influenced. That’s good news for criminals and bad news for law enforcement agencies that often rely on eyewitnesses to provide a description of a criminal. Around the world, law enforcement agencies employ sketch artists to piece together faces in a process similar to assembling a Mr. Potato Head toy. The witness describes key features, such as hair length, nose size or sharpness of the chin, and the artist combines them to create a likeness. Research into psychology suggests that this kind of method doesn’t take into account how the memory actually works, so researchers have developed new software that helps witnesses recreate and recognize suspects using principles borrowed from the fields of optics and genetics.
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