Cryptic Crosswords and Face Identification

A study com­par­ing the effects of vari­ous leis­ure activ­it­ies on the recog­ni­tion and iden­ti­fic­a­tion of faces has con­cluded that eye­wit­nesses should not be per­mit­ted to do cryptic cross­word puzzles pri­or to an iden­tity parade.

The study, con­duc­ted by Cardiff Uni­versity’s Michael Lewis, com­pared logic puzzles (sudoku), cross­word puzzles (both cryptic and stand­ard) and mys­tery nov­els (Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code) and found that per­form­ing cryptic cross­words reduced the reli­ab­il­ity of recog­nising and identi­fy­ing faces.

“The iden­ti­fic­a­tion of an offend­er by a wit­ness to a crime often forms an import­ant ele­ment of a pro­sec­u­tion’s case. While con­sid­er­able import­ance is placed by jur­ors on the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of the offend­er by a wit­ness (such as a sus­pect being picked out from an iden­tity parade), research tells us that these iden­ti­fic­a­tions can often be wrong and some­times lead to wrong­ful con­vic­tions.”

“It would be undesir­able,” he writes, “to have wit­nesses doing some­thing before an iden­tity parade that would make them worse at pick­ing out the offend­er … Con­sider what wit­nesses may do before an iden­tity parade. It is pos­sible that they might be doing some­thing to pass the time (eg read or do a puzzle). It is pos­sible that some of these poten­tial activ­it­ies may lead to a det­ri­ment in face pro­cessing.”

via @noahWG