Seeing through disguise: Getting to know you with a deep convolutional neural network

Eilidh Noyes, Connor J. Parde, Y. Ivette Colón, Matthew Q. Hill, Carlos D. Castillo, Rob Jenkins, Alice J. O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


People use disguise to look unlike themselves (evasion) or to look like someone else (impersonation). Evasion disguise challenges human ability to see an identity across variable images; Impersonation challenges human ability to tell people apart. Personal familiarity with an individual face helps humans to see through disguise. Here we propose a model of familiarity based on high-level visual learning mechanisms that we tested using a deep convolutional neural network (DCNN) trained for face identification. DCNNs generate a face space in which identities and images co-exist in a unified computational framework, that is categorically structured around identity, rather than retinotopy. This allows for simultaneous manipulation of mechanisms that contrast identities and cluster images. In Experiment 1, we measured the DCNN's baseline accuracy (unfamiliar condition) for identification of faces in no disguise and disguise conditions. Disguise affected DCNN performance in much the same way it affects human performance for unfamiliar faces in disguise (cf. Noyes & Jenkins, 2019). In Experiment 2, we simulated familiarity for individual identities by averaging the DCNN-generated representations from multiple images of each identity. Averaging improved DCNN recognition of faces in evasion disguise, but reduced the ability of the DCNN to differentiate identities of similar appearance. In Experiment 3, we implemented a contrast learning technique to simultaneously teach the DCNN appearance variation and identity contrasts between different individuals. This facilitated identification with both evasion and impersonation disguise. Familiar face recognition requires an ability to group images of the same identity together and separate different identities. The deep network provides a high-level visual representation for face recognition that supports both of these mechanisms of face learning simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104611
Number of pages10
Early online date13 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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