Diverse types of expertise in facial recognition

Towler, Alice; Dunn, Jame D.; Castro Martínez, Sergio; Moreton, Reuben; Eklöf, Fredrick; Ruifrok, Arnout; Kemp, Richard I. and White, David (2023). Diverse types of expertise in facial recognition. Scientific Reports, 13, article no. 11396.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-28632-x


Facial recognition errors can jeopardize national security, criminal justice, public safety and civil rights. Here, we compare the most accurate humans and facial recognition technology in a detailed lab-based evaluation and international proficiency test for forensic scientists involving 27 forensic departments from 14 countries. We find striking cognitive and perceptual diversity between naturally skilled super-recognizers, trained forensic examiners and deep neural networks, despite them achieving equivalent accuracy. Clear differences emerged in super-recognizers’ and forensic examiners’ perceptual processing, errors, and response patterns: super-recognizers were fast, biased to respond ‘same person’ and misidentified people with extreme confidence, whereas forensic examiners were slow, unbiased and strategically avoided misidentification errors. Further, these human experts and deep neural networks disagreed on the similarity of faces, pointing to differences in their representations of faces. Our findings therefore reveal multiple types of facial recognition expertise, with each type lending itself to particular facial recognition roles in operational settings. Finally, we show that harnessing the diversity between individual experts provides a robust method of maximizing facial recognition accuracy. This can be achieved either via collaboration between experts in forensic laboratories, or most promisingly, by statistical fusion of match scores provided by different types of expert.

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