This year, the Australasian Experimental Psychology Conference was hosted by the University of Sydney. From the Expertise and Evidence Lab, Matt Thompson and Rachel Searston both presented some of their latest research. Matt presented: “The gist of a match: Fingerprint expert decision making in the blink of an eye”. In his study, Matt presented matching and non-matching fingerprints to experts and novices for only 250 milliseconds, and showed that fingerprint experts were able to, very quickly, decide whether the two presented fingerprints matched or not. His findings suggest that repeated training and exposure to different fingerprints enable experts to develop a fast and accurate method of categorisation. Rachel presented: “Identification expertise and family resemblance categorisation”. In her experiment, Rachel examined the ability of the fingerprint experts to categorise prints on the person basis as opposed to the specific prints. She presented experts with prints from five different fingers of a person’s hand, and asked whether or not the last print “matched” the other four different prints that came from the same person. She demonstrated that experts were able to accurately categorise prints on the basis of the family resemblance characteristics between the fingerprints of a person. Her findings suggest that the expertise of fingerprint examiners extends beyond simply matching the specific articulable features between prints. In June, Rachel, Matt, and Jason will be attending the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC) Conference in Victoria BC.
On 27 May, our Flashed Face Distortion Effect was featured in the Brain Games program on the National Geographic Channel. Unfortunately, they disregarded the fact that the faces don’t need to be presented in the periphery for the effect to work (as we described in our paper), but it’s nice to see that people enjoy it.
The first practitioner-based UQ Forensic Reasoning Workshop was held at The University of Queensland on 25-26 March, and we welcomed Bruce Comber from The Australian Federal Police, Duncan McCarthy from the Queensland Police Service, Sophia Arulappu from the Victoria Police, Cameron Forsyth from New South Wales Police, and Gary Edmond from UNSW Law. Jason Tangen, Matthew Thompson, Rachel Searston, and Ruben Laukkonen from the Expertise & Evidence Lab presented some of their latest research, and we spent two days devising future experiments on expertise, discussing various training and recruitment practices across the states, and developing a contemporary model of expert testimony. We learned a great deal about the everyday operations of fingerprint bureaus, examiners’ workflow, and how expertise develops. We are looking forward to visiting each of the forensic branches across Australia in the coming months to test some of these ideas and discuss them further with other examiners.
Matthew Thompson presented at the 65th Anniversary Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences from 18-23 February in Washington, DC. The theme of the conference was “Founded on observation and experience, improved by education and research.” Matthew had meetings with Barry Scheck (co-founder Innocence Project), Michael Risinger (Professor of Law), and William Thompson (Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society and Psychology & Social Behavior and Law). His talk titled “Evidence for expertise in fingerprint identification and the ramifications for the future study of forensic expertise” was in the Criminalistics Stream, Fingerprint Identification and Analysis Session.
Thompson, M. B., Tangen, J. M., & McCarthy, D. J. (2013). Evidence for expertise in fingerprint identification and the ramifications for the future study of forensic expertise. American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Annual Meeting. Washington, DC: 18-23 February, 2013. [PDF][Slides]
Jason Tangen and the rest of the Interdisciplinary Panel for Forensic Science met in Wollongong from 13-15 February to discuss approaches to the validation of forensic expertise and issues with the expression of expert testimony. Thanks to Gary Edmond who hosted the meeting and the other panel members: James Curran, Bryan Found, David Hamer, Brynn Hibbert, Richard Kemp, Kristy Martire, Geoff Morrison, Glenn Porter, Mehera San Roque, and Simon Walsh for three days of intensive debate and discussion.