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Journal: Cognitive research: principles and implications


Recent experimental work has shown that hyper-realistic face masks can pass for real faces during live viewing. However, live viewing embeds the perceptual task (mask detection) in a powerful social context that may influence respondents' behaviour. To remove this social context, we assessed viewers' ability to distinguish photos of hyper-realistic masks from photos of real faces in a computerised two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) procedure.


We often identify people using face images. This is true in occupational settings such as passport control as well as in everyday social environments. Mapping between images and identities assumes that facial appearance is stable within certain bounds. For example, a person’s apparent age, gender and ethnicity change slowly, if at all. It also assumes that deliberate changes beyond these bounds (i.e., disguises) would be easy to spot. Hyper-realistic face masks overturn these assumptions by allowing the wearer to look like an entirely different person. If unnoticed, these masks break the link between facial appearance and personal identity, with clear implications for applied face recognition. However, to date, no one has assessed the realism of these masks, or specified conditions under which they may be accepted as real faces. Herein, we examined incidental detection of unexpected but attended hyper-realistic masks in both photographic and live presentations. Experiment 1 (UK; n = 60) revealed no evidence for overt detection of hyper-realistic masks among real face photos, and little evidence of covert detection. Experiment 2 (Japan; n = 60) extended these findings to different masks, mask-wearers and participant pools. In Experiment 3 (UK and Japan; n = 407), passers-by failed to notice that a live confederate was wearing a hyper-realistic mask and showed limited evidence of covert detection, even at close viewing distance (5 vs. 20 m). Across all of these studies, viewers accepted hyper-realistic masks as real faces. Specific countermeasures will be required if detection rates are to be improved.

Concepts: Face transplant, Identity, Mask


There is an increasing trend in association football (soccer) to assist referees in their decision-making with video technology. For decisions such as whether a goal has been scored or which player actually committed a foul, video technology can provide more objective information and be valuable to increase decisional accuracy. It is unclear, however, to what extent video replays can aid referee decisions in the case of foul-play situations in which the decision is typically more ambiguous. In this study, we specifically evaluated the impact of slow-motion replays on decision-making by referees. To this end, elite referees of five different countries (n = 88) evaluated 60 different foul-play situations taken from international matches, replayed in either real time or slow motion. Our results revealed that referees penalized situations more severely in slow motion compared to real time (e.g. red card with a yellow card reference decision). Our results provide initial evidence that video replay speed can have an important impact on the disciplinary decision given by the referee in case of foul play. The study also provides a real-life test-case for theories and insights regarding causality perception.


The science of learning has made a considerable contribution to our understanding of effective teaching and learning strategies. However, few instructors outside of the field are privy to this research. In this tutorial review, we focus on six specific cognitive strategies that have received robust support from decades of research: spaced practice, interleaving, retrieval practice, elaboration, concrete examples, and dual coding. We describe the basic research behind each strategy and relevant applied research, present examples of existing and suggested implementation, and make recommendations for further research that would broaden the reach of these strategies.

Concepts: Research


We investigated the relationships between individual differences in different aspects of face-identity processing, using the Glasgow Face Matching Test (GFMT) as a measure of unfamiliar face perception, the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT) as a measure of new face learning, and the Before They Were Famous task (BTWF) as a measure of familiar face recognition. These measures were integrated into two separate studies examining the relationship between face processing and other tasks. For Study 1 we gathered participants' subjective ratings of their own face perception abilities. In Study 2 we used additional measures of perceptual and cognitive abilities, and personality factors to place individual differences in a broader context. Performance was significantly correlated across the three face-identity tasks in both studies, suggesting some degree of commonality of underlying mechanisms. For Study 1 the participants' self-ratings correlated poorly with performance, reaching significance only for judgements of familiar face recognition. In Study 2 there were few associations between face tasks and other measures, with task-level influences seeming to account for the small number of associations present. In general, face tasks correlated with each other, but did not show an overall relation with other perceptual, cognitive or personality tests. Our findings are consistent with the existence of a general face-perception factor, able to account for around 25% of the variance in scores. However, other relatively task-specific influences are also clearly operating.


Hyper-realistic masks present a new challenge to security and crime prevention. We have recently shown that people’s ability to differentiate these masks from real faces is extremely limited. Here we consider individual differences as a means to improve mask detection. Participants categorized single images as masks or real faces in a computer-based task. Experiment 1 revealed poor accuracy (40%) and large individual differences (5-100%) for high-realism masks among low-realism masks and real faces. Individual differences in mask categorization accuracy remained large when the Low-realism condition was eliminated (Experiment 2). Accuracy for mask images was not correlated with accuracy for real face images or with prior knowledge of hyper-realistic face masks. Image analysis revealed that mask and face stimuli were most strongly differentiated in the region below the eyes. Moreover, high-performing participants tracked the differential information in this area, but low-performing participants did not. Like other face tasks (e.g. identification), hyper-realistic mask detection gives rise to large individual differences in performance. Unlike many other face tasks, performance may be localized to a specific image cue.


In recent years there has been growing interest in the identification of people with superior face recognition skills, for both theoretical and applied investigations. These individuals have mostly been identified via their performance on a single attempt at a tightly controlled test of face memory-the long form of the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT+). The consistency of their skills over a range of tests, particularly those replicating more applied policing scenarios, has yet to be examined systematically. The current investigation screened 200 people who believed they have superior face recognition skills, using the CFMT+ and three new, more applied tests (measuring face memory, face matching and composite-face identification in a crowd). Of the sample, 59.5% showed at least some consistency in superior face recognition performance, although only five individuals outperformed controls on overall indices of target-present and target-absent trials. Only one participant outperformed controls on the Crowds test, suggesting that some applied face recognition tasks require very specific skills. In conclusion, future screening protocols need to be suitably thorough to test for consistency in performance, and to allow different types of superior performer to be detected from the outset. Screening for optimal performers may sometimes need to directly replicate the task in question, taking into account target-present and target-absent performance. Self-selection alone is not a reliable means of identifying those at the top end of the face recognition spectrum.


Criminal associates such as terrorist members are likely to deny knowing members of their network when questioned by police. Eye tracking research suggests that lies about familiar faces can be detected by distinct markers of recognition (e.g. fewer fixations and longer fixation durations) across multiple eye fixation parameters. However, the effect of explicit eye movement strategies to concealed recognition on such markers has not been examined. Our aim was to assess the impact of fixed-sequence eye movement strategies (across the forehead, ears, eyes, nose, mouth and chin) on markers of familiar face recognition. Participants were assigned to one of two groups: a standard guilty group who were simply instructed to conceal knowledge but with no specific instructions on how to do so; and a countermeasures group who were instructed to look at every familiar and unfamiliar face in the same way by executing a consistent sequence of fixations.


There are large individual differences in people’s face recognition ability. These individual differences provide an opportunity to recruit the best face-recognisers into jobs that require accurate person identification, through the implementation of ability-screening tasks. To date, screening has focused exclusively on face recognition ability; however real-world identifications can involve the use of other person-recognition cues. Here we incorporate body and biological motion recognition as relevant skills for person identification. We test whether performance on a standardised face-matching task (the Glasgow Face Matching Test) predicts performance on three other identity-matching tasks, based on faces, bodies, and biological motion. We examine the results from group versus individual analyses. We found stark differences between the conclusions one would make from group analyses versus analyses that retain information about individual differences. Specifically, tests of correlation and analysis of variance suggested that face recognition ability was related to performance for all person identification tasks. These analyses were strikingly inconsistent with the individual differences data, which suggested that the screening task was related only to performance on the face task. This study highlights the importance of individual data in the interpretation of results of person identification ability.


People interpret abstract meanings from colors, which makes color a useful perceptual feature for visual communication. This process is complicated, however, because there is seldom a one-to-one correspondence between colors and meanings. One color can be associated with many different concepts (one-to-many mapping) and many colors can be associated with the same concept (many-to-one mapping). We propose that to interpret color-coding systems, people perform assignment inference to determine how colors map onto concepts. We studied assignment inference in the domain of recycling. Participants saw images of colored but unlabeled bins and were asked to indicate which bins they would use to discard different kinds of recyclables and trash. In Experiment 1, we tested two hypotheses for how people perform assignment inference. The local assignment hypothesis predicts that people simply match objects with their most strongly associated color. The global assignment hypothesis predicts that people also account for the association strengths between all other objects and colors within the scope of the color-coding system. Participants discarded objects in bins that optimized the color-object associations of the entire set, which is consistent with the global assignment hypothesis. This sometimes resulted in discarding objects in bins whose colors were weakly associated with the object, even when there was a stronger associated option available. In Experiment 2, we tested different methods for encoding color-coding systems and found that people were better at assignment inference when color sets simultaneously maximized the association strength between assigned color-object parings while minimizing associations between unassigned pairings. Our study provides an approach for designing intuitive color-coding systems that facilitate communication through visual media such as graphs, maps, signs, and artifacts.

Concepts: Color, Hypothesis, Meaning of life, Concept, Object, Communication