It takes very little to successfully disguise yourself
A new study finds even simple, easy, appearance alterations fool people
- We're not as good at facial recognition as you might think.
- Who needs Mission Impossible latex masks?
- You can change your hair or make up and pass for someone else.
Maybe Lois Lane wasn't so stupid after all. A brilliant reporter, yes, but of all the implausibilities of the Superman story, her inability to tell that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person thanks to a pair of glasses strained credulity. Now, though, a study's been published in APA PsycNET that shows it's amazingly easy to hide one's identity with even the simplest of disguises.
Cognitive psychologist Eilidh Noyes of University of Huddersfield in the U.K. co-authored the study with Rob Jenkins of the University of York. They recruited 26 models who were photographed three times:
- As themselves
- In a self-designed disguise meant to change their appearance — the study referred to the goal of these disguises as "evasion."
- Posing as another one of the volunteers, these were "impersonation" disguises.
The means participants were provided to change their appearances were hardly very clever: They could change their hairstyle and/or makeup, or add or remove facial hair. They were not allowed to change their look with articles of clothing likes hats, scarves, or any other garb that wouldn't be allowed in a passport picture.
Noyes tells University of Huddersfield News, "Our models used inexpensive simple disguises and there were no make-up artists involved. If people want to, it's very easy to change their appearance."
Other study participants were then asked to identify the person in each photo. For the evasion images, 30 percent of them got it wrong, even when they knew they were looking at people who might be in disguise. The impersonation pix weren't as successful at fooling people.
At the conclusion of the study, all of the images were collected into a database called "FAÇADE" that's being offered to programmers and researchers developing facial recognition software.
“You look familiar.”
(ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Apparently, the researchers have documented something criminals already know. Alleged murderer Cesare Battisti successfully evaded capture for 37 years
Using simple disguises and hiding often in plain sight. He was finally captured this year. Brazilian police published a rogue's gallery of his likely appearance prior to his arrest. (The third one in the top row was closest to his appearance at the time of arrest.)
About our intrepid Daily Planet reporter, however: Apparently participants who knew the subjects were less likely to be fooled, so she's not quite off the hook.
Young people could even end up less anxiety-ridden, thanks to newfound confidence
- The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
- Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
- Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.
- The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
- One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
- Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.