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]

Glasgow Face Matching Test[edit]

Super recognisers performed well in the Glasgow Face Matching Test in comparison with a control group.[12]


  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. "Are You Any Good at Recognizing Familiar Faces? Here, Test Yourself". The Cut. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  3. ^ a b c d e Moshakis, Alex (11 November 2018). "Super recognisers: the people who never forget a face". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  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 (2018-09-06). "From Mountain of CCTV Footage, Pay Dirt: 2 Russians Are Named in Spy Poisoning". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  7. ^ "The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face". Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Super Recognisers". Crime + Investigation. 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  9. ^ Jaslow, Ryan (2013-09-27). "London police using 200 super-recognizers: What makes them "super"?". CBS News. Retrieved 2020-01-23.
  10. ^ Hopkins, Nick; Harding, Luke; MacAskill, Ewen (6 August 2018). "UK poised to ask Russia to extradite Salisbury attack suspects". the Guardian.
  11. ^ "Super recogniser squad tracks Skripal novichok attackers".
  12. ^ Robertson DJ Could super recognisers be the latest weapon on the war on terror? The Conversation 24 Mar 2016

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]