Are estimates of faces’ ages less accurate when they wear sunglasses or face masks and do these disguises make it harder to later recognise the faces when undisguised?

Thorley, Craig, Acton, Benjamin, Armstrong, Jesse, Ford, Shanade, and Gundry, Margaret (2022) Are estimates of faces’ ages less accurate when they wear sunglasses or face masks and do these disguises make it harder to later recognise the faces when undisguised? Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 7. 17.

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Abstract

This study examined whether our ability to accurately estimate unfamiliar faces’ ages declines when they are wearing sunglasses or surgical-style face masks and whether these disguises make it harder to later recognise those faces when undisguised. In theory, both disguises should harm age estimation accuracy and later face recognition as they occlude facial information that is used to determine a face’s age and identity. To establish whether this is the case, we had participants estimate the age of unfamiliar faces that were pictured wearing no disguises, sunglasses, or face masks. The participants then completed a face recognition test where they had to distinguish between the previously seen faces and new faces. Importantly, none of faces wore disguises in this latter test. Participants’ estimates of the undisguised faces’ ages were inaccurate by a Median of 5.15 years. Their accuracy barely changed when the faces wore sunglasses but declined by a Median of 1.30 years when they wore face masks. Moreover, subsequent undisguised face recognition was less likely to occur when the faces previously wore sunglasses or face masks, with large effects observed. These findings demonstrate the relative importance of different facial areas when estimating faces’ ages and later recognising them. They also have implications for policing as they suggest it may be harder for eyewitnesses to accurately estimate the age of criminals who wear face masks during offences, and it may be harder for them to later recognise criminals in line-ups if the criminals wear sunglasses or face masks during offences.

Item ID: 74448
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2365-7464
Keywords: Age estimation, Age perception, COVID-19, Disguises, Face masks, Face recognition, Sunglasses
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2022 00:50
FoR Codes: 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5204 Cognitive and computational psychology > 520406 Sensory processes, perception and performance @ 100%
SEO Codes: 23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2399 Other law, politics and community services > 239999 Other law, politics and community services not elsewhere classified @ 30%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology @ 70%
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