Unfamiliar face matching: Pairs out-perform individuals and provide a route to training

Andrew J. Dowsett, A. Mike Burton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Matching unfamiliar faces is known to be difficult. Here, we ask whether performance can be improved by asking viewers to work in pairs, a manipulation known to increase accuracy for low-level visual discrimination tasks. Across four experiments we consistently find that face matching accuracy is higher for pairs of viewers than for individuals. This 'pairs advantage' is generally driven by adopting the response of the higher scoring partner. However, when the task becomes difficult, both partners' performance is improved by working in a pair. In two experiments, we find evidence that working in a pair can lead to subsequent improvements in individual performance, specifically for viewers whose accuracy is initially low. The pairs' technique therefore offers the opportunity for substantial improvements in face matching performance, along with an added training benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-445
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


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