Screening the Face

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Clearly, then, a consistent diagnostic approach needs to be implemented by both researchers and their beneficiaries. The standard version of the CFMT is a dominant test that is used worldwide to diagnose prosopagnosia e. Alternative versions of the CFMT possess similar properties, indicating that the paradigm provides a reliable assessment of face memory Bate et al.

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Both group-based Russell et al. Bobak et al. The latter statistical approach is important when considering the potential for heterogeneity in super recognition, as it allows researchers to examine the consistency of performance in each individual as opposed to a group as a whole across tests that tap into different processes. There is a theoretical basis for this assumption of heterogeneity when examining the patterns of presentation that have been observed in those with developmental prosopagnosia. Specifically, while some of these individuals appear to only have difficulties in their memory for faces e.

In fact, some existing investigations into super recognition present evidence that supports this possibility, albeit with very small sample sizes Bobak, Bennetts, et al. Such studies have assessed face perception skills in SRs using a variety of paradigms. For instance, the landmark SR paper of Russell et al. This test presents sets of six faces that have each been morphed to a different level of similarity from a target face. In each trial, participants are required to sort the faces in terms of their similarity to the identity of the target. Further, the very discrete artificially manipulated differences between images do not resemble a typical real-world face perception task, and the precise perceptual processes that are being assessed by the test remain unclear.

Other researchers have used face matching tasks to assess face perception, where participants are required to decide whether simultaneously presented pairs of faces display the same or different identities e. The studies reported by Bobak and Davis subsequently found that only some individuals outperformed controls on measures of face perception.


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Thus, because current protocols initially require superior performance on a test of face memory for experimental inclusion as a SR, the only available evidence suggests that superior face memory skills can present without superior face perception skills, and the converse has not yet been investigated. This clearly has both theoretical e. It is also pertinent that some inconsistencies have been observed in the performance of SRs across multiple measures of face memory or face perception Bobak, Bennetts, et al. This may indicate that some individuals achieve superior scores on a single attempt at a single test simply due to chance, and further testing reveals their true, more average abilities.

Alternatively, differences in paradigm may bring about inconsistencies in performance, as has already been illustrated for face perception i. That is, some individuals may have skills that are only suited to certain face-processing tasks, and this hypothesis may also extend to tests of face memory. Although some variability was incorporated into the greyscale images via changes in viewpoint, lighting, expression or the addition of noise, these manipulations do not capture the same variability that presents between images of the same person that have been collected on different days in a variety of naturalistic settings.

While another test used by Russell et al. Perhaps more fundamentally, the test is hampered by the difficulty of objective assessment across individuals due to potentially large differences in lifetime exposure to the target celebrities. Finally, it could be argued that self-reported evidence of everyday face recognition may be used as a potential means to identify SRs. Such evidence could be collected anecdotally, or through more formal self-report questionnaires. Yet this issue of metacognition, particularly in relation to face recognition, has been much debated.

Duchaine, ; Palermo et al. However, this issue has not yet been investigated at the top end of the face recognition spectrum, and it is possible that these individuals have a more accurate awareness of the level of their face recognition skills compared to those with typical or impaired abilities. In sum, SRs need to be reliably identified for both theoretical and applied investigations, yet existing tests and protocols are open to criticism. While this procedure may overlook any candidate who is proficient only at face perception and not at face memory, it may also be overly simplistic by only taking one score on a single test at a single point in time as the critical measure.

Examining the consistency of performance across a variety of more applied tests that tap the same and different components of face-processing will address this issue, and ensure that the correct individuals are allocated to specific tasks in real-world settings. The current paper set out to address these issues in a large number of adult Caucasian participants who had self-referred to our laboratory in the belief that they have superior face recognition skills. Because of the large sample size and diverse geography of the participants, the study was carried out online.

In order to examine the accuracy of self-selection for SR research, we initially calculated the proportion of our sample who objectively met at least one criterion for super recognition. We then investigated the heterogeneity of super recognition by looking for dissociations between measures of face memory and face perception although note that the consistency of face perception skills was not assessed across tests in the current paper. However, because our testing battery contained both traditional and more applied tests, we were able to examine consistency of performance across different measures of assessment.

Following large-scale media coverage of our previous work, a large number of individuals self-referred to our laboratory via our website: www. All participants were invited to take part in the screening programme, and subsequently completed all four of the tests that are described in this paper. All participants took part in the study online and on a voluntary basis, motivated by the desire to discover whether they fit the criteria for super recognition.

Forty control participants 20 male also participated in this study. Their mean age was Because it is possible that differences in performance may be noted between online and laboratory-tested participants, we tested half of these participants 10 female online and the remaining half under laboratory conditions.

The latter tests were designed to reflect more ecologically valid face recognition tasks, particularly those that may be encountered in policing scenarios. All tasks were designed to be carried out as accurately as possible, although, in an attempt to avoid particularly long response latencies, participants were informed that completion times would also be analysed. However, because the overall aim of this paper is to examine patterns of accuracy across tests, we only focus on this measure.

In the standard test, participants initially encode the faces of six unfamiliar males. Three views of each target face are shown frontal, and left and right profiles for 3 s each, and participants are immediately required to select the identical images from three triads of faces. They are subsequently required to select a target face from 30 triads of faces, now presented from novel viewpoints or lighting conditions.

After another s review of the target faces, 24 further triads are presented, with noise overlaid onto the images. All triads in the test contain a target face, and some distractors are repeated to enhance difficulty.

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Participants make responses using the 1—3 number keys on a keyboard, and triads remain on-screen until a response is made. Reaction time is not monitored. This new test of face memory was developed in our laboratory for the purposes of this study. We therefore used a variety of more naturalistic, colour images of each person, taken on different days and in very different scenarios. To collect these images, we adopted the procedure used by Dowsett and Burton to acquire 14 very different facial images of each of six young adult males, via the webpages of modelling agencies see Fig.

We used the same technique to collect a pool of unique distractor faces, which were combined with the target images to create the testing triads see later. We used faces that were all of the same gender to maintain difficulty across trials i. Because gender biases have only been shown for the recognition of female and not male faces in previous work e.

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All images were cropped from just below the chin to display the full face, and, to mimic real-world face recognition, none of the external features was excluded. Sample stimuli from the MMT. Note that these trials are all target-present. Due to issues with image permissions, this figure only displays images that resemble those used in the actual test. However, instead of each face being initially shown from three viewpoints, we displayed three frontal images of each face that were taken on different days in very different settings.

To create the testing triads, each image of a target was matched to two distractor faces from the pool, according to their external facial features and viewpoint. These 18 encoding trials do not contribute to the overall score. Participants then received 90 test trials 45 target-present , in a random order for each participant, with a screen break after the first 45 trials. Because the latter is a direct development of a test that is designed to detect prosopagnosia, the inclusion of target-absent trials may result in low-ability participants eliciting this response on every trial.

However, those who are truly at the higher end of the spectrum should be adept at both correct identifications and correct rejections—as is required in policing scenarios and in real-life interactions. As in the encoding phase, very different images of each target were included in the test triads.


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  • We collected a further five to seven images of each target face, and five distractor faces were selected from the pool that were considered to match each individual target image. Two were combined with the target image to form a target-present triad, and the remaining three were combined to form a matched target-absent triad.

    The resulting 90 triads were then divided into two equal groups, with the first containing images that were more similar to the encoding images of the target faces i. For each trial, participants were required to respond with the corresponding number key 1—3 to indicate the position of a target in the triad, or with the 0 key if they believed the triad to be target-absent.

    After completing the first 45 trials, participants view an instruction screen that invites them to have a brief rest before beginning the final, more challenging phase of the test. Because of the inclusion of target-absent trials, five different categories of responses are possible in the task. In trials without a target face, responses can be categorised as either correct rejections correctly stating that no target face was present or false positives incorrectly identifying one of the faces as a target.

    Each of these measures was calculated separately for each participant, along with an overall accuracy score the sum of hits and correct rejections. This test was created in our laboratory using a very similar design to existing face matching tests e. The creation of a new, sufficiently calibrated test was necessary so that we could confidently detect top performers via single-case statistical comparisons. We created 48 colour pairs of faces 24 male , half of which were matched in identity see Fig.

    As in the previous test, all images were downloaded from the websites of modelling agencies. To ensure difficulty of the test, the faces in the mismatched trials were paired according to their perceived resemblance to each other. All images were cropped to display the full face from just below the chin, and all external features were included.

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    The test displayed each pair of faces simultaneously, and participants were required to make a key press indicating whether the faces were of the same individual or two different individuals. To replicate the demands of this task in everyday and occupational settings e. For each participant, trials were randomised and presented within a single block. A sample pair from the PMT. The two identities differ in this trial. We developed a new test of face matching that required participants to decide whether a composite target face is present within a simultaneously presented image displaying a crowd of people.

    The crowd images displayed 25—40 people in a variety of scenarios, such as watching sports matches or concerts, or running in a marathon see Fig. The test was designed to simulate a policing scenario where officers or police staff might have a composite image of a perpetrator and are searching for him or her in a crowd or within CCTV footage. Participants had an unlimited time to decide, via a single keyboard response, whether the identity depicted by the composite was present in the crowd scene.

    We made use of the EvoFIT holistic system, in current police use, as the resulting faces can be readily named by other people e. We used a standard face-construction protocol Frowd et al. They were then sent online links to the four objective tests, which they completed in a counterbalanced order. Those who completed the tests online were sent the links to the tests in the same manner as the experimental group.