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Understanding face matching

Fysh, Matthew C., Bindemann, Markus (2022) Understanding face matching. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, . ISSN 1747-0218. (doi:10.1177/17470218221104476) (KAR id:96836)


Many security settings rely on the identity matching of unfamiliar people, which has led this task to be studied extensively in Cognitive Psychology. In these experiments, observers typically decide whether pairs of faces depict one person (an identity match) or two different people (an identity mismatch). The visual similarity of the to-be-compared faces must play a primary role in how observers accurately resolve this task, but the nature of this similarity–accuracy relationship is unclear. The current study investigated the association between accuracy and facial similarity at the level of individual items (Experiments 1 and 2) and facial features (Experiments 3 and 4). All experiments demonstrate a strong link between similarity and matching accuracy, indicating that this forms the basis of identification decisions. At a feature level, however, similarity exhibited distinct relationships with match and mismatch accuracy. In matches, similarity information was generally shared across the features of a face pair under comparison, with greater similarity linked to higher accuracy. Conversely, features within mismatching face pairs exhibited greater variation in similarity information. This indicates that identity matches and mismatches are characterised by different similarity profiles, which present distinct challenges to the cognitive system. We propose that these identification decisions can be resolved through the accumulation of convergent featural information in matches and the evaluation of divergent featural information in


Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/17470218221104476
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.
Uncontrolled keywords: Unfamiliar face matching, accuracy, similarity, dissociation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: Markus Bindemann
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2022 09:17 UTC
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2024 11:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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