Feature-by-feature comparison and holistic processing in unfamiliar face matching

PeerJ. 2018 Feb 26;6:e4437. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4437. eCollection 2018.


Identity comparisons of photographs of unfamiliar faces are prone to error but imperative for security settings, such as the verification of face identities at passport control. Therefore, finding techniques to improve face-matching accuracy is an important contemporary research topic. This study investigates whether matching accuracy can be enhanced by verbal instructions that address feature comparisons or holistic processing. Findings demonstrate that feature-by-feature comparison strategy had no effect on face matching. In contrast, verbal instructions focused on holistic processing made face matching faster, but they impaired accuracy. Given the recent evidence for the heredity of face perception and the previously reported small or no improvements of face-matching ability, it seems reasonable to suggest that improving unfamiliar face matching is not an easy task, but it is presumably worthwhile to explore new methods for improvement nonetheless.

Keywords: Face matching; Feature processing; Holistic processing.

Grant support

This study was made possible by NPRP grant #NPRP9-272-5-033 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar foundation). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.