Investigating the nature of fingerprint expertise

Baird, Jessica (2012). Investigating the nature of fingerprint expertise Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
BAIRDJessica4071thesis2012.pdf Thesis full text application/pdf 2.74MB 11
Author Baird, Jessica
Thesis Title Investigating the nature of fingerprint expertise
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-10-10
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Jason Tangen
Total pages 52
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Little investigation has been conducted into the nature of fingerprint examiner expertise, and it is not known what perceptual and cognitive differences allow expert examiners to identify prints more successfully than novice examiners. This study aimed to negate this substantial void in our understanding of expert fingerprint identification. Anecdotal reports suggest that experts analyse prints according to features, such as loops, arches, and whorls, in a highly deliberate and analytic manner. However, the nature of expertise in other visual domains has revealed that as expertise with a stimulus increases, decisions can be made quicker and more automatically, due to the development of a nonanalytic processing system. Recent research has revealed that fingerprint experts still demonstrate remarkably high discrimination rates in conditions where specific features and details of a print cannot be viewed thoroughly. This suggests that despite what even experts themselves believe, a highly analytic search approach to fingerprint identification may not be necessary for successful discrimination, due to skills developed with their expertise. We aimed to test for this nonanalytic processing system in groups of novice and expert examiners by occupying working memory resources needed for analytic processing. This was achieved by asking participants to complete secondary tasks while identifying prints. These tasks were of varying difficulty and were both visual and verbal in nature. Our results are suggestive of the existence of a nonanalytic processing system in expert fingerprint examiners. We also found that visual secondary tasks interfered more with print discrimination than verbal tasks, due to a conflict in resource-sharing with visual fingerprint search. Although our research is suggestive, further investigation needs to be conducted before stronger conclusions on the existence of nonanalytic processing in fingerprint experts can be drawn.
Keyword Fingerprint examiner expertise
Perceptual and cognitive differences between experts and novices

Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Wed, 20 Feb 2013, 15:56:54 EST by Mrs Ann Lee on behalf of School of Psychology