Some can sure pick ‘em in face-off

Underage drinkers and border-control fraudsters may need to think twice about hoodwinking security as a South Australian psychologist reveals some people have an enhanced ability to match faces with photos.

Dragana Calic, of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), found that some trained participants were much better at matching faces to passport-style photos than others who had also been trained in the same task, which is central to security applications like border control, secure-access facilities and nightclubs.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that trained participants were better than untrained participants. However, what is interesting is that some were better among the trained participants,” says Dragana Calic, who conducted the PhD research as part of a collaboration between DSTO and The University of Adelaide.

Trained and untrained participants were asked to decide if a person’s face, presented live or on video, matched the one shown in a passport-style photograph. The research also investigated the extent to which better performance could be due to innate abilities.

“Results were not clearly indicative of what superior performance may be attributed to,” Dragana says.Dragana Calic

She says further research is needed to determine whether the enhanced face-matching performance is due to an innate ability, particular training or simply continuous conduct of the face-matching task.

SA State Finalist: Dragana Calic, Defence Science and Technology Organisation

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