Face recognition by metropolitan police super-recognisers

David J. Robertson, Eilidh Noyes, Andrew J. Dowsett, Rob Jenkins, A. Mike Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


Face recognition is used to prove identity across a wide variety of settings. Despite this, 33 research consistently shows that people are typically rather poor at matching faces to photos. 34 Some professional groups, such as police and passport officers, have been shown to perform 35 just as poorly as the general public on standard tests of face recognition. However, face 36 recognition skills are subject to wide individual variation, with some people showing 37 exceptional ability – a group that has come to be known as 'super-recognisers'. The UK 38 Metropolitan Police Force recruits 'super-recognisers' from within its ranks, for deployment 39 on various identification tasks. Here we test four working super-recognisers from within this 40 police force, and ask whether they are really able to perform at levels above control groups. 41 We consistently find that the police 'super-recognisers' perform at well above normal levels 42 on tests of unfamiliar and familiar face matching, in degraded as well as high quality images. 43 Recruiting employees with high levels of skill in these areas, and allocating them to relevant 44 tasks, is an efficient way to overcome some of the known difficulties associated with 45 unfamiliar face recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150036
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


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