Hidden Information In Pupil Reflections Could Help Investigators Solve Crimes

on December 28, 2013 7:49 PM EST

eyes
They say that eyes are the windows to a person's soul, but it turns out that they could also be the mirrors to a criminals identity, helping investigators solve crimes through photographs. (Photo: artwork_rebel, CC BY 2.0)

While technology has equipped investigators to solve crimes, this latest study could hand criminal investigators the ultimate information to catch criminals. The study, conducted by Dr. Rob Jenkins of the University of York's Department of Psychology, was published in the journal PLoS One, and found that photographs showing pupils can be mined for hidden information. Specifically, photographs of faces can be zoomed in - especially on high-resolution photographs - to reveal information about unseen bystanders through their reflections on the pupils. 

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The study included 32 participants, and found that they could spot familiar images 84 percent of the time when presented with the photographed image of the pupil that reflected those familiar images. In the case of unfamiliar people, the reflected images were matched 71 percent times, The L.A. Times reported.

The researchers then simulated crime photos in which the "criminals" photographed their victims. Jenkins and co-researcher Christie Kerr, of the University of Glasgow's School of Psychology (the attackers), photographed eight "victims," each of whom were looking at four bystanders behind the camera. They zoomed in on the images of the victims' eyes and extracted the images of the bystanders. The eight photographed individuals were then able to accurately identify the images based on who they had seen during the photo sessions, The Verge reported.

Criminal investigations often rely on photographic evidence to identify criminals. Those who commit several crimes, such as child sex abuse, hostage taking, and kidnapping often photograph their victims. The perpetrators of the crime, or other bystanders, could be identified from the reflections in the eyes of the photographed subjects, according to the researchers.

In addition to face photographs, the criminal investigators will now be equipped with an additional tool to catch criminals. While face photographs will help in facial recognition, the pupils can reflect the appearance of the surrounding area as well, which will help crime investigation identify the scene of the crime, among other things.

There are nonetheless some limitations to the forensic use of photographs as used in the study. The subjects looked straight into the camera, and Jenkins shot photographs with a 39-megapixel Hasselblad camera. No one controls the way criminals take photographs or the kind of cameras they use. 

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