Application of artificial intelligence to eyewitness identification

Heather Kleider-Offutt*, Beth Stevens, Laura B Mickes, Stewart Boogert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Artificial intelligence (AI) is already all around us, and its usage will only increase. Knowing its capabilities is critical. A Facial Recognition System (FRS) is a tool for law enforcement during suspect searches and when presenting photos to eyewitnesses for identification. However, there are no comparisons between eyewitness and FRS accuracy using video, so it is unknown whether FRS face matches are more accurate than eyewitness memory when identifying a perpetrator. Ours is the first application of artificial intelligence to an eyewitness experience, using a comparative psychology approach. As a first step to test system accuracy relative to eyewitness accuracy, participants and an open-source FRS (FaceNet) attempted perpetrator identification/match from lineup photos (target-present, target-absent) after exposure to real crime videos with varied clarity and perpetrator race. FRS used video probe images of each perpetrator to achieve similarity ratings for each corresponding lineup member. Using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis to measure discriminability, FRS performance was superior to eyewitness performance, regardless of video clarity or perpetrator race. Video clarity impacted participant performance, with the unclear videos yielding lower performance than the clear videos. Using confidence-accuracy characteristic (CAC) analysis to measure reliability (i.e., the likelihood the identified suspect is the actual perpetrator), when the FRS identified faces with the highest similarity values, they were accurate. The results suggest FaceNet, or similarly performing systems, may supplement eyewitness memory for suspect searches and subsequent lineup construction and knowing the system’s strengths and weaknesses is critical.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number19
Early online date3 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Structured keywords

  • Memory
  • Mind and Brain (Psychological Science)


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