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Fingerprint Sourcebook - Chapter 15: Special Abilities and Vulnerabilities in Forensic Expertise

NCJ Number
Date Published
24 pages

This chapter examines the cognitive abilities and vulnerabilities of forensic experts in the identification of fingerprints.


Latent print examinations are complex perceptual and cognitive tasks. Examiners rely on their visual systems to find similarities in pairs of prints. The process involves perception, similarity judgments, memory, and decisionmaking. These abilities vary among individuals and can be improved with training and experience. This chapter begins with an overview of foundational findings in cognitive science and then, discusses how these research areas have been extended to latent print examiners. Links are drawn between basic science findings and the relevant domains of training, selection, and procedures of latent print examinations. The importance of fingerprint evidence being reliable and unbiased requires the potential weaknesses among examiners be addressed. Systematic research must be conducted to examine the cognitive and psychological elements involved in fingerprint identification. Figures and references

Date Published: January 1, 2010