Taking nothing at face value

Jul 09, 2012

Photographs of faces may not be adequate proof of a person's identity and this could have serious implications for the accuracy of passport photographs in determining identity. Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) shows that an image of a person may look strikingly different from one image to the next. We are told not to smile in our passport photos as a smile distorts the face; but the opposite may actually be true, and a poker face may be the one which distorts normal facial features.

Dr Rob Jenkins and his team at the University of Glasgow took a sample of photos from the internet to show the wide range of differing images of one person. In a series of experiments, viewers unfamiliar with the subject of the photograph believed that the photos they were viewing were of different people – when in fact they were simply different presentations of the same person.

By contrast, viewers who were familiar with the subject of the found it much easier to identify the person across the different images. Familiarity was key, particularly where the range of formed a collection of both good and bad likenesses.

Further experiments looked at the perceived attractiveness of an image. They showed that variability within a person was greater than the variability between people when it came to deeming a face attractive. The experiments showed that and facial photographs cannot be considered to be representative of each other. Facial recognition must start to consider not only how to tell people apart, but also how to spot the similarities.

Dr Jenkins states: "The sheer variation in photos of an individual's face did bring us up short. Previous research on identification has focused on differences between faces. Now it turns out that differences within faces are just as large. Therefore in this study we have discovered a new dimension to the field of face recognition."

Assessing a face as attractive can have positive consequences when it comes to finding a mate, finding a job and perhaps seeking approval. So it is important to choose the best image of ourselves to present to a judgmental world. Dr Jenkins states: "This research makes us consider much more deeply what it means to have a 'good likeness'".

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Women easier to read after all

Feb 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study by a University of Glasgow psychologist, examining whether personality is related to facial appearance, has found that women’s faces are easier to read than men.

Gossip serves a useful purpose after all

May 20, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers in the US have discovered that hearing gossip about a person literally changes the way you see them, and hearing negative information about people makes their faces stand out.

Bees recognize human faces using feature configuration

Jan 29, 2010

Going about their day-to-day business, bees have no need to be able to recognise human faces. Yet in 2005, when Adrian Dyer from Monash University trained the fascinating insects to associate pictures of human ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

21 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.