Psychology research in the New Scientist

Research resulting from a BU-funded PhD studentship is featured in this week’s edition of the New Scientist, and was also recently covered by the Independent. Under the supervision of Dr Sarah Bate from the Department of Psychology (Faculty of Science and Technology), Anna Bobak has spent the last three years investigating so-called “super recognisers”, or people with extraordinary face recognition skills.

It appears that only a small proportion of the general population have these skills, yet they may be incredibly useful in forensic and security tasks, such as the identification of perpetrators from CCTV footage or in passport control. While super-recognisers have previously been identified via laboratory tests of face recognition, Anna’s work demonstrates that only some of these individuals also excel at more applied face recognition tasks. In a recent paper published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, she demonstrates that more real-world tasks are required to identify the super recognisers who can truly be of value to the Police Force and in national security settings.

Anna has recently moved into a PDRA position where she continues to work with Sarah in the field of super recognition. Her post is part of a HEIF5+1 initiative that aims to generate knowledge exchange with the Police. The team are currently working directly with Dorset Police to create screening tools that can identify officers who may be particularly suited to certain face recognition tasks, and to make a series of recommendations for best practice that are extracted from excellent performance. They are also creating resources that educate officers about the limitations and biases that act upon the human face recognition system, and how these may influence core policing activities.

Anna is to be hugely congratulated on gaining such high profile coverage of an excellent piece of research.