Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

An exploration of sample representativeness in anthropometric facial comparison

X.G.D. Mallett, I.L. Dryden & M.P. Evison. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55(4), pp. 1025-1031. (2010).


Faces are assumed to be unique, but their use in court has remained problematic as no method of comparison with known error rates has been accepted by the scientific community. Rather than relying on the assumed uniqueness of facial features, previous research has been directed at estimations of face shape frequency. Here, the influence of age, sex, and ancestry on variation was investigated. Statistical shape analysis was used to examine the necessity for sub-divisions in forensic comparisons, using a large sample of facial images on which 30 anthropometric landmark points had been placed in 3D. Results showed a clear pattern of separation of the sexes in all age groups, and in different age groups in men. It was concluded that sub-division of databases by sex will be necessary in forensic comparisons. Sub-division by age may be necessary in men (although not necessarily in women), and may be necessary by ancestry.

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