What is a super-recogniser?

E. Noyes, P.J. Phillips, A.J. O’Toole

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

46 Citations (Scopus)


Super-recognisers are people who perform face recognition and face matching tests with very high levels of accuracy. We review the small literature currently available on super-recognisers and provide a summary of the key findings. Based on what is currently known, we argue that super-recognisers are best understood as the top performers sampled from a distribution of normal facial-recognition skills, rather than as a distinct population of people with ‘superior recognition capacity.’ This conclusion is based on findings that while super-recognisers as a group outperform controls on tasks of face processing, this is not true at an individual level. Individual ‘super-recognisers’ do not consistently exceed the expected performance range for normal face recognition skills. Moreover, their performance is not always consistent across related face processing tasks. Given this perspective on super-recognisers, we list open issues that should be addressed in future research. From an applied perspective, we argue that jobs that require accurate face identification skills, (e.g., law enforcement), should be filled by people with the best skills for the job. Given the limited consistency of super-recogniser performance across tasks, this may require tests that are focussed on the specific face processing skills needed for the success at a particular job. In this sense, super-recognisers should be considered ‘skilled labour’ for professional face recognition jobs and should be pre-tested as is done for professionals of all sorts (e.g., athletes, engineers).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFace Processing: Systems, Disorders and Cultural Differences
EditorsMarkus Bindemann, Ahmed M. Megreya
PublisherNova Science Publishers Inc
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9781536124316, 9781536123982
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

Publication series

NameFace Processing: Systems, Disorders and Cultural Differences


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