Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

It takes very little to successfully disguise yourself

A new study finds even simple, easy, appearance alterations fool people

It takes very little to successfully disguise yourself
(Getty Images/Big Think)
  • 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.

Who's who?

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.”

Battisti nabbed

(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.)

Sorry, Lois

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.

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
Keep reading Show less

Yale scientists restore cellular function in 32 dead pig brains

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
Keep reading Show less

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

Just imagine: a Mars that's as wet as Earth.

Image: A.R. Bhattarai, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • Sci-fi visions of Mars have changed over time, in step with humanity's own obsessions.
  • Once the source of alien invaders, the Red Planet is now deemed ripe for terraforming.
  • Here's an extreme example: Mars with exactly as much surface water as Earth.
Keep reading Show less

The entrepreneur's guide to success: Follow these tips

Starting and running a business takes more than a good idea and the desire to not have a boss.

Videos
  • Anyone can start a business and be an entrepreneur, but the reality is that most businesses will fail. Building something successful from the ground up takes hard work, passion, intelligence, and a network of people who are equally as smart and passionate as you are. It also requires the ability to accept and learn from your failures.
  • In this video, entrepreneurs in various industries including 3D printing, fashion, hygiene, capital investments, aerospace, and biotechnology share what they've learned over the years about relationships, setting and attaining goals, growth, and what happens when things don't go according to plan.
  • "People who start businesses for the exit, most of them will fail because there's just no true passion behind it," says Miki Agrawal, co-founder of THINX and TUSHY. A key point of Agrawal's advice is that if you can't see yourself in something for 10 years, you shouldn't do it.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast