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Determinants of face recognition: the role of target prevalence and similarity

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Abstract

Studies of facial identity processing typically assess perception and/or recognition, with designs differing with respect to one important aspect: Target Prevalence. That is, some include “target absent” (TA) among “target present” (TP) trials. In visual search tasks, TA trials shift an observer’s decisional criterion towards a stricter one, increasing error rates. However, decisional biases will differ inter-individually and can change intra-individually as well. From one standpoint, excluding TA trials is logical as it ensures comparable levels of expectation, or decisional bias across observers, and tasks. However, in reality, TA trials may occur, e.g. in police line-ups, where it is important to consider observers’ face recognition ability independently for TA and TP trials. To our knowledge, the effect of including TA trials has not been systematically investigated in tests of face recognition. We sought to fill this void by testing different versions of the previously established Models Memory Test that measures old/new recognition of experimentally learned facial identities. Our study aimed to answer the open question of whether — and if, how — observer expectation matters in face recognition with naturalistic stimulus variations. We discuss implications for line-up scenarios that are simulated in research settings and occur regularly in policing.

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... Indeed, criminal investigation line-ups may not always contain the target identity in question. Therefore, recently, Boudry, Nador, and Ramon (2023) systematically investigated the effect of target prevalence on observers' face recognition performance using the same 3-alternative forced-choice memory paradigm as the CFMT (Russell et al., 2009). Mirroring findings from within the field of visual search (Wolfe et al., 2007;Wolfe & Van Wert, 2010), the authors report that decreased target occurrence was associated with lower recognition performance. ...
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About a decade ago, Super-Recognizers (SRs) were first described as individuals with exceptional face identity processing abilities. Since then, various tests have been developed or adapted to assess individuals’ abilities and identify SRs. The extant literature suggests that SRs may be beneficial in police tasks requiring individual identification. However, in reality, the performance of SRs has never been examinedusing authentic forensic material. This not only limits the external validity of test procedures used to identify SRs, but also claims concerning their deployment in policing. Here, we report the first-ever investigation of SRs’ ability to identify perpetrators using authentic case material. We report the data of 73 SRs and 45 control participants. These include (a) performance on three challenging tests of face identity processing recommended by Ramon (2021) for SR identification; (b) performance for perpetrator identification using four CCTV sequences depicting five perpetrators and police line-ups created for criminal investigation purposes. Our findings demonstrate that the face identity processing tests used here are valid in measuring such abilities and identifying SRs. Moreover, SRs excel at perpetrator identification relative to control participants, with more correct perpetrator identifications, the better their performance across lab tests. These results provide external validity for the recently proposed diagnostic framework and its tests used for SR identification (Ramon,2021). This study provides the first empirical evidence that SRs identified using these measures can be beneficial for forensic perpetrator identification. We discuss theoretical and practical implications for law enforcement, whose procedures can be improved via a human-centric approach centered around individuals with superior abilities.
... Indeed, criminal investigation line-ups may not always contain the target identity in question. Therefore, recently, Boudry et al. (22) systematically investigated the effect of target prevalence on observers' face recognition performance using the same 3alternative forced-choice memory paradigm as the CFMT (1). Mirroring findings from within the field of visual search (23,24), the authors report that decreased target occurrence was associated with lower recognition performance. ...
Article
About a decade ago, Super-Recognizers (SRs) were first described as individuals with exceptional face identity processing abilities. Since then, various tests have been developed or adapted to assess individuals' abilities and identify SRs. The extant literature suggests that SRs may be beneficial in police tasks requiring individual identification. However, in reality, the performance of SRs has never been examined using authentic forensic material. This not only limits the external validity of test procedures used to identify SRs, but also claims concerning their deployment in policing. Here, we report the first-ever investigation of SRs' ability to identify perpetrators using authentic case material. We report the data of 73 SRs and 45 control participants. These include (a) performance on three challenging tests of face identity processing recommended by Ramon (2021) for SR identification; (b) performance for perpetrator identification using four CCTV sequences depicting five perpetrators and police line-ups created for criminal investigation purposes. Our findings demonstrate that the face identity processing tests used here are valid in measuring such abilities and identifying SRs. Moreover, SRs excel at perpetrator identification relative to control participants, with more correct perpetrator identifications, the better their performance across lab tests. These results provide external validity for the recently proposed diagnostic framework and its tests used for SR identification (Ramon, 2021). This study provides the first empirical evidence that SRs identified using these measures can be beneficial for forensic perpetrator identification. We discuss theoretical and practical implications for law enforcement, whose procedures can be improved via a human-centric approach centered around individuals with superior abilities.
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