Tag Archives: Photo Board

Ashton Foley’s mugshots – a minor mystery

A collection of old mugshots of Ashton Foley from her misadventures in the USA were published in Saturday’s West. I’m still left wondering why in one of them her skin looks markedly darker and the overall effect in that shot was of an African-American look, while I didn’t get that impression from the other photos, neither from a fairly recent Australian interview video of Foley that can be seen on the internet. One clue is that the brown-skinned mugshot was taken not long after she had given birth to twins. I considered whether melasma, or the “mask of pregnancy” might have been the cause of her darker skin, but from what I’ve read about it. it manifests as brown blotches, not an overall darker complexion. Perhaps she just got a tan. What I find interesting is how a slight change of skin tone changed the way I would describe her race. I think this shows how much of a red herring eyewitness categorizations of race can be, if they can be altered by small changes in the skin tone of individuals.

Faces of the same woman?

There’s a compelling bit of forensic face recognition on the front page of today’s West. Unfortunately the photos of the faces of whistleblower Ashton Foley and the American woman she is alleged to be is not shown in the online version of the news story. Do you think they are photos of the same person? I can only pick a few differences, none of which definitely rules out a match. I think the photo on the left is of a younger, slimmer, more miserable or tired woman, perhaps with darker skin. I get a feeling of African-American racial identity from the face on the left but not the one on the right. Why is unclear, and it could be based on stereotyping. The photo on the left is, I presume, a mugshot, the one on the right apparently not. Perhaps the cues that a photo is a mugshot make me unconsciously associate it with African-Americans. Psychology research finds that most people operate on racist stereotypes even if we aren’t consciously racist.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that the one on the left has eyes that seem darker. This difference in the eyes could possibly be a result of lighting, because the eye is a three-dimensional thing, and when we look at an eye we literally look into an eye, at the pupil and the iris, which are inside the structure of the eye. I’ve been perplexed when viewing video of people who have light-coloured eyes and there are moments when one or both eyes seem to darken or pupils seem to enlarge greatly, giving a scary effect, but what’s really happening is that the angle of the light changes and the eye is becoming insufficiently lit to display their light-coloured irises.

The hair, hairline, ear profile, shoulder slope and most aspects of the faces seem to match. I would very much like to see profile shots of Ms Foley and the American woman she is alleged to be, to see if the ear shape matches. Ear shape is apparently as unique and identifiable as the face. Ear shape was an important factor in trying to solve the fascinating Taman Shud case in Adelaide.

As Ms Foley suggests, fingerprints need to be checked, even though the forensic science of fingerprints has been seriously bought into question. As a super-recognizer I don’t have a strong intuition or feeling of recognition about the question of identity. I can’t rule out a match, but that doesn’t prove a match.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/newshome/16048470/inquiry-ordered-into-peel-mystery/

My super-recognition skills applied forensically

Earlier this year I was required to identify a person who broke a law from a police photo-board. As you might expect, this was as easy as falling off a log, because I got a good look at the offender. I was able to identify the offender with great confidence, as well as point out an aspect of the offender’s appearance that had markedly changed between the time I saw the offender and the time when the photo was taken. I was also able to rule out all the other photos as not being photos of the offender, which is actually even more important, because while it is important to prosecute offenders, it is even more important to avoid arresting or prosecuting an innocent person. My successful identification of the offender was confirmed by the police officer who was investigating the matter, which hardly seemed necessary as I was quite sure I was right, unless the offender has a twin or is from one of those families in which siblings look very similar. I should point out that the police officer didn’t immediately confirm that my face identification was correct, because the police have a very thoughtful procedure in place to prevent any possibility that an investigating police officer could influence the process of a witness identifying faces from a photo board.

The usefulness of my skills didn’t end there. I have found my ability to identify family resemblance in faces and in other visual characteristics invaluable in identifying relatives and associates of the offender. I was even able to informally identify an associate completely unconsciously. When I saw this person I felt that he was in some way linked to the offender, but not a blood relative. I took note of his appearance. Later I saw the same person in the company of the offender. I’m not sure whether it was a memory of his appearance or his demeanor at the time which initially caught my attention. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that an associate of the offender has recently dyed their hair black, in an apparent attempt to evade identification, which is a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Dumb people often assume that everyone else is as dumb as they are, but a change in hair colour isn’t likely to fool a super-recognizer, and probably not a person with adequate face and body recognition capabilities.

It appears to me that my superior face recognition ability has given me an edge over other people, because it appears to me that I’m not recognized nearly as often as I identify others, but one can’t be completely sure. One thing that I’m certain of is that super-recognition ability is definitely of value to police, forensic and security work in many different ways, and possibly in ways that no one has for-seen. Police forces need to be sure that they are making the best possible use of the super-recognizers that they already have in their force, and if possible trying to recruit new officers that have this natural and fairly rare ability. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age police recruitment processes are generally blind to the issue of face recognition, superiority or deficits.