People Are Not Very Good at Matching Photographs to People
We have an error rate of about 15%:
Professor Mike Burton, Sixth Century Chair in Psychology at the University of Aberdeen said: “Psychologists identified around a decade ago that in general people are not very good at matching a person to an image on a security document.
“Familiar faces trigger special processes in our brain—we would recognise a member of our family, a friend or a famous face within a crowd, in a multitude of guises, venues, angles or lighting conditions. But when it comes to identifying a stranger it’s another story.
“The question we asked was does this fundamental brain process that occurs have any real importance for situations such as controlling passport issuing and we found that it does.”
The ability of Australian passport officers, for whom accurate face matching is central to their job and vital to border security, was tested in the latest study, which involved researchers from the Universities of Aberdeen, York and New South Wales Australia.
In one test, passport officers had to decide whether or not a photograph of an individual presented on their computer screen matched the face of a person standing in front of their desk.
It was found that on 15% of trials the officers decided that the photograph on their screen matched the face of the person standing in front of them, when in fact, the photograph showed an entirely different person.