Prior to the terrorist act in Brussels a few years ago, a suspect was shown pictures of terrorists by the police in order to find out if he knew them. However, this person reported not recognizing any of the photos. Soon afterwards the terror attack was carried out. Did the investigators perhaps miss an opportunity to obtain information that would have enabled them to prevent the attacks in Brussels and to save a lot of lives?
This might actually be the case. Our study is concerned with a new paradigm for the Concealed Information Test (CIT) which can be used for detection of guilty knowledge and for assessing responsibility for a crime when the justice system is trying to reach a verdict. It could have been advantageous in this case. Normally, CIT measures physiological reactions when a series of stimuli is shown. Our study, in contrast, investigates reaction times for face recognition when the stimulus (e.g., picture of the face) is either familiar or unfamiliar. Being familiar with the face in our experiment plays the same role as supposedly having guilty knowledge (e.g., knowing the face of a criminal). This stronger memory representation for familiar faces and the automatic capture of attention is expected show in reaction times compared to unfamiliar faces during the dual-task paradigm applied in our study consisting of an attention task that is intertwined with a memory task.
If our findings are in line with our hypothesis it could have a major impact on the improvement of interrogation strategies and could potentially provide information to foil criminal acts.