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The nature of expertise in fingerprint examiners


Latent print examinations involve a complex set of psychological and cognitive processes. This article summarizes existing work that has addressed how training and experience creates changes in latent print examiners. Experience appears to improve overall accuracy, increase visual working memory, and lead to configural processing of upright fingerprints. Experts also demonstrate a narrower visual filter and, as a group, tend to show greater consistency when viewing ink prints. These findings address recent criticisms of latent print evidence, but many open questions still exist. Cognitive scientists are well positioned to conduct studies that will improve the training and practices of latent print examiners, and suggestions for becoming involved in fingerprint research are provided.


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Correspondence to Thomas A. Busey or Francisco J. Parada.

Additional information

This research was supported by NIJ Grants 2005-MU-BX-K076 and 2009-DN-BX-K226 to the first author.

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Busey, T.A., Parada, F.J. The nature of expertise in fingerprint examiners. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 17, 155–160 (2010).

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  • Visual Working Memory
  • Configural Processing
  • Visual Noise
  • Forensic Identification
  • Erroneous Identification