Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 100–106 | Cite as

Feedback training for facial image comparison

  • David White
  • Richard I. Kemp
  • Rob Jenkins
  • A. Mike Burton
Brief Report


People are typically poor at matching the identity of unfamiliar faces from photographs. This observation has broad implications for face matching in operational settings (e.g., border control). Here, we report significant improvements in face matching ability following feedback training. In Experiment 1, we show cumulative improvement in performance on a standard test of face matching ability when participants were provided with trial-by-trial feedback. More important, Experiment 2 shows that training benefits can generalize to novel, widely varying, unfamiliar face images for which no feedback is provided. The transfer effect specifically benefited participants who had performed poorly on an initial screening test. These findings are discussed in the context of existing literature on unfamiliar face matching and perceptual training. Given the reliability of the performance enhancement and its generalization to diverse image sets, we suggest that feedback training may be useful for face matching in occupational settings.


Face recognition Unfamiliar face matching Identity verification Perceptual learning 


Author Note

This research was supported by an ARC grant to Kemp (LP110100448), a bilaterally funded grant to Kemp (ARC: LX0083067), Burton, and Jenkins (ESRC: RES-000-22-2519), and an ESRC Professorial Fellowship to Burton (ES/J022950/1). We thank Graham Nisbett (B), Filippo Caranti (B), Troy Constable (B), Ian Short (C) and the Edinburgh International Film Festival (C) for making the photographs in Fig. 1 available for publication under Creative Commons licenses (CC BY 2.0).


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David White
    • 1
  • Richard I. Kemp
    • 1
  • Rob Jenkins
    • 2
  • A. Mike Burton
    • 3
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK

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