Dependence of the appearance-based perception of criminality, suggestibility, and trustworthiness on the level of pixelation of facial images

Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Oct;115(2):465-80. doi: 10.2466/24.22.PMS.115.5.465-480.


While the dependence of face identification on the level of pixelation-transform of the images of faces has been well studied, similar research on face-based trait perception is underdeveloped. Because depiction formats used for hiding individual identity in visual media and evidential material recorded by surveillance cameras often consist of pixelized images, knowing the effects of pixelation on person perception has practical relevance. Here, the results of two experiments are presented showing the effect of facial image pixelation on the perception of criminality, trustworthiness, and suggestibility. It appears that individuals (N = 46, M age = 21.5 yr., SD = 3.1 for criminality ratings; N = 94, M age = 27.4 yr., SD = 10.1 for other ratings) have the ability to discriminate between facial cues ndicative of these perceived traits from the coarse level of image pixelation (10-12 pixels per face horizontally) and that the discriminability increases with a decrease in the coarseness of pixelation. Perceived criminality and trustworthiness appear to be better carried by the pixelized images than perceived suggestibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Perception*
  • Students / psychology
  • Suggestion*
  • Trust / psychology*
  • Young Adult