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.”