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Predicting Biological Profiles From Prescription Eyewear: A Pilot Study

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 59 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2009 Pages: 205-218
Gregory E. Berg; Sabrina C. Ta'ala
Date Published
March 2009
14 pages
This study tested the hypothesis that in cases where prescription glasses are found in association with human remains or at a crime scene, data from the glasses may be used to estimate the wearer’s age, sex, or race.
Study results indicated that 1 of the 3 methods for estimating age within plus-or-minus 10 years had an 81-percent accuracy rate; age (plus-or-minus 10 years) was correctly predicted in 100-prcent of cases with bifocal prescriptions (n=31). Sex and race could not be estimated with sufficient accuracy by using any of the three methods. The ability to estimate an unknown individual’s age from prescription glasses could be useful in many cases, particularly for an advanced-age subject, since traditional age-estimation methods fare poorly. This method could also by useful in those rare instances when a perpetrator leaves glasses behind at a crime scene. The study used data from the prescription glasses or current eye exams of 97 volunteers. Each anonymous volunteer provided information on his/her age, sex, and race. An automated lens analyzer was used to read prescriptions from glasses provided by volunteers, and the glasses were then returned to volunteers using a drop-off box with an anonymous numbering system. Data collected from lenses and prescriptions were compared to 2 large databases composed of eyeglass prescriptions from more than 12,000 individuals in a variety of age, sex, and racial categories. Three analytical methods were applied. The most specific method was a tolerance match to each of the three variables for a given prescription (sphere, cylinder, and axis). The second method was an exact match to only the sphere and cylinder power of both eyes. The most conservative method was a tolerance match to the sphere and cylinder power of both eyes. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 10 references


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