Face recognition ability does not predict person identification performance: using individual data in the interpretation of group results

Eilidh Noyes, Matthew Q Hill, Alice J O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive research: principles and implications
Early online date27 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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