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I Can Recognize You Even Your Face Is Masked

—Face Recognition Becomes More Accurate in Photos Showing Whole Person


When face is hard to distinguish, we can usually recognize someone through some body details, just like knowing who he is by observing one’s posture and the way he walks. *Image source: desipainters.

A study published in Psychological Science by researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas suggests that in challenging viewing conditions such as poor lighting, humans rely on non-facial cues, for example, body shape and build, to identify people. This skill might be able to help researchers to improve person-recognition software and guide them to deeper understanding of how humans recognize each other.

During a series of experiments, the researchers requested college-age participants to take a look at images of two people side-by-side and identify whether the images showed the same person. Overall, the experiment participants can accurately discern whether the images showed the same person or not when the complete images that showed both the body and the face were presented. Participants who were showed with images in which the faces were blocked out and only the bodies were presented, exhibited similar accuracy with the first group. However, just like the computer-based face recognition system, the participants had some trouble identifying images of subjects’ faces without their bodies.

 “Nowadays, psychologists and computer scientists concentrate exclusively on the role of the face in person recognition,” explained lead researcher Allyson Rice. “Our results suggest that the body can also offer important and sometimes sufficient identity information for person recognition.”

The researchers also asked the participants to look at pairs of photographs with two people in a row and recognize whether the two people were the same one or not. In some images, the two look similar, but they are different; while, in other images, the two are the same guy, just dressing differently. These images with facial features that are difficult to distinguish were selected using computer face recognition system.


Above are two pairs of photographs that face-recognition software was unable to identify correctly. The top two photos are of the same person dressing differently while the bottom two are of different people that look similar. *Image source: UT Dallas.

When asked, the participants believed that they were using primarily facial features to identify the subjects. In order to unravel the paradox, the researchers applied eye-tracking equipment to determine the location that the participants were actually looking at.  It is found that whenever the face did not provide sufficient information to identify the subjects, participants spent more time on looking at the bodies.

“Considering the widespread use of face recognition systems in security settings, it becomes more and more important to take advantage of all potentially helpful information,” said O’Toole. “Our results recommends that the body could be amazingly useful for identification, particularly when the face can’t provide enough identity information.”

SourceUT Dallas
Image sourceShutterstock