Super-recognizers: People with extraordinary face recognition ability

Abstract

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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Correspondence to Richard Russell.

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The present study was supported by the US National Eye Institute (NRSA to R.R. and R01-EY13602 to K.N.) and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (RES-061-23-0040 to B.D.).

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Russell, R., Duchaine, B. & Nakayama, K. Super-recognizers: People with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 16, 252–257 (2009). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.16.2.252

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Keywords

  • Face Recognition
  • Face Perception
  • Inversion Effect
  • Target Face
  • Eyewitness Identification