Super recogniser

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"Super recognisers" 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]

The skill is recognised and employed among the British intelligence community.[4] 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.[5][unreliable source?] Most people can only remember about 20% of faces. They 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]

In May 2015,[8] 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.[citation needed] 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.[9][10]

Glasgow Face Matching Test[edit]

Super recognisers performed well in the Glasgow Face Matching Test in comparison with a control group.[11]


  1. ^ Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K Super-recognizers: People with extraordinary face recognition ability Psychonomic Bulletin & Review Apr 2009 Vol 16(2) Pages 252-7
  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. ^ "Super Recognisers". Crime + Investigation. 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  5. ^ Zolfagharifard E Are YOU a 'super recogniser'? Take the test to see if you are one of an elite group of people who never forget a face Daily Mail 16 Jun 2015
  6. ^ "From Mountain of CCTV Footage, Pay Dirt: 2 Russians Are Named in Spy Poisoning". Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  7. ^ "The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face". Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  8. ^ Hamill J Metropolitan Police 'super-recognisers' have busted THOUSANDS of criminals The Sun 11 Oct 2016
  9. ^ Hopkins, Nick; Harding, Luke; MacAskill, Ewen (6 August 2018). "UK poised to ask Russia to extradite Salisbury attack suspects". the Guardian.
  10. ^ "Super recogniser squad tracks Skripal novichok attackers".
  11. ^ Robertson DJ Could super recognisers be the latest weapon on the war on terror? The Conversation 24 Mar 2016

Further reading[edit]

  • Gaidos S Familiar faces:"Super recognizers" never forget a visage, an unusual ability that can be put to good use Science News Vol 184 Iss 5 p16–20, 07 Sep 2013
  • Robertson DJ, Noyes E, Dowsett AJ, Jenkins R Face Recognition by Metropolitan Police Super-Recognisers PLoS One 11(2); 26 Feb 2016
  • Williams C "Super-recognisers" have amazing memory for faces New Scientist Vol 215 Iss 2882 15 Sep 2012 Pages 36–39
  • Ring T Humans vs machines: the future of facial recognition Biometric Technology Today Vol 2016 Iss 4 April 2016 Pages 5–8

External links[edit]