Super recogniser

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"Super recogniser" is a term coined in 2009 by Harvard and University College London researchers for people with significantly better-than-average face recognition ability.[1][2] Super recognisers are able to memorise and recall thousands of faces, often having seen them only once.[3]


It is the extreme opposite of prosopagnosia. It is estimated that 1 to 2% of the population are super recognisers[3] who can remember 80% of faces they have seen compared to 20% of the general population,[4] but these figures are disputed.[5] Super recognizers can match faces better than computer recognition systems in some circumstances.[3][6][7] The science behind this is poorly understood but may be related to the fusiform face area part of the brain.[3]

Practical applications[edit]

The skill is recognised and employed among the British intelligence community.[8]

In May 2015, the London Metropolitan Police officially formed a team made up of people with this heightened capability for recognising people and put them to work identifying individuals whose faces are captured on CCTV.[3] Scotland Yard has a squad of over 200 super recognisers.[9] In August 2018, it was reported that the Metropolitan Police had used two super recognisers to identify the suspects of the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, after trawling through up to 5,000 hours of CCTV footage from Salisbury and numerous airports across the country.[10][11]

German police forces have made increasing use of super recognisers for suspect identification, such as in the wake of the 2020 Stuttgart riot.[12]

Glasgow Face Matching Test[edit]

Super recognisers performed well in the Glasgow Face Matching Test in comparison with a control group.[13]


  1. ^ Russell, Richard; Duchaine, Brad; Nakayama, Ken (April 2009). "Super-recognizers: People with extraordinary face recognition ability". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 16 (2): 252–257. doi:10.3758/PBR.16.2.252. PMC 3904192. PMID 19293090.
  2. ^ Dahl, Melissa (13 August 2020). "What Does It Mean If You're Really Really Good at Recognizing Faces?". The Cut. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Moshakis, Alex (11 November 2018). "Super recognisers: the people who never forget a face". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  4. ^ "I put names to faces as a police super-recogniser". Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  5. ^ Ramon, Meike; Bobak, Anna K.; White, David (August 2019). "Super‐recognizers: From the lab to the world and back again". British Journal of Psychology. 110 (3): 461–479. doi:10.1111/bjop.12368. PMC 6767378. PMID 30893478.
  6. ^ Barry, Ellen (6 September 2018). "From Mountain of CCTV Footage, Pay Dirt: 2 Russians Are Named in Spy Poisoning". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  7. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (15 August 2016). "The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Super Recognisers". Crime + Investigation. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  9. ^ Jaslow, Ryan (27 September 2013). "London police using 200 super-recognizers: What makes them "super"?". CBS News. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  10. ^ Hopkins, Nick; Harding, Luke; MacAskill, Ewen (6 August 2018). "UK poised to ask Russia to extradite Salisbury attack suspects". the Guardian.
  11. ^ Brunt, Martin (28 August 2018). "Super recogniser squad tracks Skripal novichok attackers".
  12. ^ "Jeder zweite Verdächtige wiedererkannt – dank »Super-Recogniser«" [One in two suspects identified - thanks to 'super recognisers']. Der Spiegel (in German). 25 August 2021. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  13. ^ Robertson, David James (24 March 2016). "Could super recognisers be the latest weapon on the war on terror?". The Conversation. Retrieved 31 August 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]