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Same face, different person

Photos of a stranger's mug can assume many identities to observers

9:06am, September 16, 2011

For an instant "identity crisis," just peruse some photographs of a stranger’s face. In many instances, people view different mug shots of an unfamiliar person as entirely different individuals, say psychologist Rob Jenkins of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and his colleagues.

Yet photos of a celebrity or other recognizable person retain a uniform identity despite changes in lighting, facial expression and other factors across images, the scientists report in a paper published online September 3 in Cognition.

To better understand issues such as eyewitness memory, and with an eye on creating reliable facial-recognition software, psychologists, vision researchers and computer scientists are studying how people recognize faces of individuals they’ve just seen and faces of those they’ve encountered over many years. These studies typically examine whether volunteers recognize an image of a person’s face and distinguish it from indiv

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