Performance of typical and superior face recognizers on a novel interactive face matching procedure

Harriet M J Smith, Sally Andrews, Thom S Baguley, Melissa F Colloff, Josh P Davis, David White, James C Rockey, Heather D Flowe

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Unfamiliar simultaneous face matching is error prone. Reducing incorrect identification decisions will positively benefit forensic and security contexts. The absence of view-independent information in static images likely contributes to the difficulty of unfamiliar face matching. We tested whether a novel interactive viewing procedure that provides the user with 3D structural information as they rotate a facial image to different orientations would improve face matching accuracy. We tested the performance of 'typical' (Experiment 1) and 'superior' (Experiment 2) face recognizers, comparing their performance using high-quality (Experiment 3) and pixelated (Experiment 4) Facebook profile images. In each trial, participants responded whether two images featured the same person with one of these images being either a static face, a video providing orientation information, or an interactive image. Taken together, the results show that fluid orientation information and interactivity prompt shifts in criterion and support matching performance. Because typical and superior face recognizers both benefited from the structural information provided by the novel viewing procedures, our results point to qualitatively similar reliance on pictorial encoding in these groups. This also suggests that interactive viewing tools can be valuable in assisting face matching in high-performing practitioner groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)964-991
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date24 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2021


  • face identification
  • individual differences
  • interactive procedure
  • super-recognizers
  • unfamiliar face matching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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