General public’s ability to spot wanted fugitives is 7 percent: Study

April 26th, 2009 - 11:06 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 26 (ANI): The general public’s ability to correctly identify wanted fugitives is as low as 7 percent, according to a new study.

Researchers from University of Arkansas conducted a series of field experiments designed to test prospective person memory. When people look at a photo of a wanted person or a missing child in order to spot that individual in the future, they are engaged in prospective person memory.

During the study, the researchers recruited undergraduate students in introductory psychology classes to identify a wanted person.

In each scenario, students were shown photos, told the individuals depicted would appear at some point in their daily lives and offered a share in a 100-dollar reward for spotting the “fugitive.”

The researchers found that for all scenarios, the identification rate was low.

In another experimental, students studied the photo of a wanted person during one class session.

The next time the class met, 48 hours later, the individual they had seen in the photo stepped into the classroom carrying a stack of papers and drew attention to himself both before and after handing the stack to the instructor.

The team found that the identification rate varied between zero and 7 percent.

“The studies described above suggest that the ability of the general public to correctly identify wanted fugitives in realistic real world conditions is quite limited,” said the researchers.

“In no study that we have conducted has the identification rate exceeded 7 percent,” they added.

In their ongoing research, Lampinen and colleagues are exploring how to get people to take the time needed to form implementation intentions when presented with a photo of a missing or wanted person.

For example, an implementation intention could involve resolving to contact authorities upon seeing a certain face.

“The potential combination of implementation intentions with imaging and pictorial encoding of faces holds great promise for the study of person prospective memory,” the researchers wrote. (ANI)

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