UNSW Sydney Forensic Psychology Lab
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Forensic Psychology Lab

All in The Mind

David White and Christel Macdonald were guests on the ABC Radio National program All In The Mind to talk about super-recognisers and the research that the lab has been running, including the UNSW Face Test.

UNSW Face Test - Are you a super-recogniser?

With Channel 7 Australia, our research team at UNSW Sydney set out to find people with superior face identification abilities, known as ‘super-recognisers’. We have designed a very challenging web-based test of face identification ability. If you are reading this on a desktop or laptop, you can try this test by clicking this link.

We have also written a blog about it and created a facebook page to provide more information about the test.

Familiarity and Face Recognition

PhD student James Dunn recently competed in the UNSW Sydney 3 Minute Thesis Competition. In the lead up to the competition he was also interviewed by The Pod, Arc@UNSW's student podcast. Here he talks about his research and the upcoming competition. You can check it out both of these at the links below:

Face recognition experts put to the test

A publication released by White along with collaborators Phillips, Hahn, Hill and O'Toole examined the face matching ability of facial identification experts like FBI agents and other law enforcers for the first time. They found that those trained in face recognition showed significantly better performance compared to both the average person and computers. For more information, see these articles by the National Geographic, ABC Science, The Independent.

You can also listen to Dr White speak about this research on ABC Radio National that was broadcast on Wednesday September 2.

Postgraduate Research Competition Results

One of our PhD students, James Dunn, recently participated in the Science Postgraduate Research Competition held at UNSW, presenting his work on the effect of familiarity on image memory. He placed first in his heat over 23 other competitors from across the UNSW Science faculty, and will be going on to represent the School of Psychology at the UNSW Three Minute Thesis competition. Congratulations James and good luck!

Media Coverage for White, Burton & Kemp (2015)

A recent publication by White, Burton and Kemp drew media attention on sites such as Yahoo Health and Daily Mail (among others). In this experiment students chose photos of themselves and ranked them in terms of likeness. These photos were additionally uploaded to a face matching test where strangers watched videos of participants before also ranking their photos. The images the strangers said were the closest likeness scored higher on the facial recognition test than those selected by the participants.

UNSW Sydney Forensic Psychology Lab - Good Likeness Example

Results show that the strangers chose a different set of 'good likeness' images compared to those that the participants had selected themselves in the initial test (two examples pictured)

The findings were published in the British Journal of Psychology and the study was supported by an Australian Research Council grants and funding from the Australian Passport Office.  

Are you a Supermatcher?

We made a face matching test to accompany the ABC Catalyst segment on the Passport Problem (ABC 1, Tuesday 24 February 2015, 8pm).

You can take the test at the following link: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4185916.htm

Our test measures your ability to match faces, which is a very important skill in a variety of security and forensic occupations. If you scored very highly on our test (7 out of 8 or better), you might be a 'Supermatcher'. Below is the distribution of scores of 200 people that completed the test online earlier in the year. As you can see from this graph, if you scored 7 or 8 correct then that places you in the top 5% of the population!

UNSW Sydney Forensic Psychology Lab - Face Matching Test Graph

Although unfamiliar face matching is a surprisingly difficult task, our recent research has shown that some people are very good at it. Interestingly, the ability to match unfamiliar faces is also highly stable - so that if you scored highly on this test it is likely that you will also score well on subsequent tests.

The ability appears to be pretty much 'hard-wired' - you are either good at it or you aren't. So, although we also find that training produces some modest improvements in performance, these are slight in comparison to the very large variation in performance across individuals. For this reason, selection and recruitment of high performers is a very promising solution to the 'passport problem'.

If you suspect you have super powers, or if you are interested in participating in our research for other reasons, please contact our research assistant: s.summersby@unsw.edu.au

If you would like to know more about our face matching research please visit our Face Matching page.


Other Recent Media

Selected coverage of White et al. (2014), "Passport officers' error in face matching" (August 2014)

Live Ros Childs interview with David White aired on ABC1 / ABC News 24 Midday News



Live John Morrison interview with David White aired on ABC Local Radio (Statewide Drive - all states)


Live interview with David White aired on ABC Radio Newcastle



Recorded presentation by Alice Towler aired on ABC Radio "The Science Show"




The Forensic Psychology Lab is part of the School of Psychology at  UNSW Sydney.