A grey area: How does image hue affect unfamiliar face matching?



Bobak A, Mileva V & Hancock P (2019) A grey area: How does image hue affect unfamiliar face matching?. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 4, Art. No.: 27.

The role of image colour in face identification has received little attention in research despite the importance of identifying people from photographs in identity documents (IDs). Here, in two experiments, we investigated whether colour congruency of two photographs shown side by side affects face matching accuracy. Participants were presented with two images from the Models Face Matching Test (Experiment 1) and a newly devised matching task incorporating female faces (Experiment 2) and asked to decide whether they show the same person, or two different people. The photographs were either both in colour, both in grayscale, or mixed (one in grayscale and one in colour). Participants were more likely to accept a pair of images as a “match”, i.e. same person, in the mixed condition, regardless of whether the identity of the pair was the same or not. This demonstrates a clear shift in bias between “congruent” colour conditions and the mixed trials. In addition, there was a small decline in accuracy in the mixed condition, relative to when the images were presented in colour. Our study provides the first evidence that the hue of document photographs matters for face matching performance. This finding has important implications for the design and regulation of photographic ID worldwide.

face matching; unfamiliar faces; ID checks; national security; face processing

Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications: Volume 4

FundersEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Publication date31/12/2019
Publication date online22/07/2019
Date accepted by journal21/05/2019

People (3)


Dr Anna Bobak

Dr Anna Bobak

Senior Lecturer, Psychology

Professor Peter Hancock

Professor Peter Hancock

Professor, Psychology

Dr Viktoria Mileva

Dr Viktoria Mileva

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology