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      Subjective assessment for super recognition: an evaluation of self-report methods in civilian and police participants

      , 1 , 2

      PeerJ

      PeerJ Inc.

      Face recognition, Face matching, Super-recognizers, Metacognition

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          Abstract

          Metacognition about face recognition has been much discussed in the psychological literature. In particular, the use of self-report to identify people with prosopagnosia (“face blindness”) has contentiously been debated. However, no study to date has specifically assessed metacognition at the top end of the spectrum. If people with exceptionally proficient face recognition skills (“super-recognizers,” SRs) have greater insight into their abilities, self-report instruments may offer an efficient means of reducing candidate lists in SR screening programs. Here, we developed a “super-recognizer questionnaire” (SRQ), calibrated using a top-end civilian sample (Experiment 1). We examined its effectiveness in identifying SRs in pools of police (Experiment 2) and civilian (Experiment 3) participants, using objective face memory and matching tests. Moderate effect sizes in both samples suggest limited insight into face memory and target-present face matching ability, whereas the only predictor of target-absent matching performance across all samples was the number of years that an officer had been in the police force. Because the SRQ and single-item ratings showed little sensitivity in discriminating SRs from typical perceivers in police officers and civilians, we recommend against the use of self-report instruments in SR screening programs.

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          Most cited references 23

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          Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability.

          We tested 4 people who claimed to have significantly better than ordinary face recognition ability. Exceptional ability was confirmed in each case. On two very different tests of face recognition, all 4 experimental subjects performed beyond the range of control subject performance. They also scored significantly better than average on a perceptual discrimination test with faces. This effect was larger with upright than with inverted faces, and the 4 subjects showed a larger "inversion effect" than did control subjects, who in turn showed a larger inversion effect than did developmental prosopagnosics. This result indicates an association between face recognition ability and the magnitude of the inversion effect. Overall, these "super-recognizers" are about as good at face recognition and perception as developmental prosopagnosics are bad. Our findings demonstrate the existence of people with exceptionally good face recognition ability and show that the range of face recognition and face perception ability is wider than has been previously acknowledged.
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            Unfamiliar faces are not faces: evidence from a matching task.

            It is difficult to match two images of the same unfamiliar face, even under good conditions. Here, we show that there are large individual differences on unfamiliar face matching. Initially, we tried to predict these using tests of visual short-term memory, cognitive style, and perceptual speed. Moderate correlations were produced by various components of these tests. In three other experiments, we found very strong correlations between face matching and inverted face matching on the same test. Finally, we examined potential associations between familiar and unfamiliar face processing. Strong correlations were found between familiar and unfamiliar face processing, but only when the familiar faces were inverted. We conclude that unfamiliar faces are processed for identity in a qualitatively different way than are familiar faces.
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              Face Recognition by Metropolitan Police Super-Recognisers

              Face recognition is used to prove identity across a wide variety of settings. Despite this, research consistently shows that people are typically rather poor at matching faces to photos. Some professional groups, such as police and passport officers, have been shown to perform just as poorly as the general public on standard tests of face recognition. However, face recognition skills are subject to wide individual variation, with some people showing exceptional ability—a group that has come to be known as ‘super-recognisers’. The Metropolitan Police Force (London) recruits ‘super-recognisers’ from within its ranks, for deployment on various identification tasks. Here we test four working super-recognisers from within this police force, and ask whether they are really able to perform at levels above control groups. We consistently find that the police ‘super-recognisers’ perform at well above normal levels on tests of unfamiliar and familiar face matching, with degraded as well as high quality images. Recruiting employees with high levels of skill in these areas, and allocating them to relevant tasks, is an efficient way to overcome some of the known difficulties associated with unfamiliar face recognition.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ Inc. (San Diego, USA )
                2167-8359
                31 January 2019
                2019
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University , Poole, UK
                [2 ]Dorset Police , UK
                Article
                6330
                10.7717/peerj.6330
                6360075
                © 2019 Bate and Dudfield

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funding
                Funded by: British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship
                Award ID: MD170004
                Sarah Bate is supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (MD170004). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Psychiatry and Psychology

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