The results of a recent face-matching research survey involving members of the NNA’s Notary community show how hard matching faces to ID photos can be. Approximately 28 percent of the time, survey takers failed to spot impostors, and 20 percent of the time they said people were impostors when they were not, reported the survey’s co-author, Megan Papesh, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Louisiana State University. The 1,151 Notaries who took the survey represent the largest group of professional participants ever studied in this field of research. The average age of the respondents was 48, and 86 percent were women. “Having Notaries participate in this research has been invaluable,” Dr. Papesh said “Notaries check IDs as part of their jobs, and they take it seriously. If they make a mistake it could be devastating.”
The Methodology The survey consisted of 30 pairs of photos. Each pair included a driver’s license photo and a recent photo of an individual who looked like the person in the driver’s license picture. In half of the pairs, the photos were of the same person. In the other half, they were of impostors. One of the surprises of the survey is that new Notaries performed as well as those who had been Notaries for more than 20 years. How often the respondents verified identities did seem to matter. Notaries who check 15–20 IDs a week were much better at spotting impostors than Notaries who checked 10–15 IDs a week.
The Next Step Performance also varied wildly between photo pairs. In the next research phase, Dr. Papesh will show the photo pairs with the best and worst results to a new group and track their eye movements. This should provide some insight about which features trip up people and which features or other techniques prove most helpful in correctly identifying people.