The pairs training effect in unfamiliar face matching

A wealth of studies have shown that humans are remarkably poor at determining whether two face images show the same person or not (face matching). Given the prevalence of photo-ID, and the fact that people employed to check photo-ID are typically unfamiliar with the person pictured, there is a need to improve unfamiliar face matching accuracy. One method of improvement is to have participants complete the task in a pair, which results in subsequent improvements in the low performer (“the pairs training effect”). Here, we sought to replicate the original finding, to test the longevity of the pairs training effect, and to shed light on the potential underlying mechanisms. In two experiments, we replicated the pairs training effect and showed it is maintained after a delay (Experiment 1). We found no differences between high and low performers in confidence (Experiment 1) or response times (Experiment 2), and the content of the pairs’ discussions (Experiment 2) did not explain the results. The pairs training effect in unfamiliar face matching is robust, but the mechanisms underlying the effects remain as yet unexplained.


University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Kay Ritchie, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Tessa Flack, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Elizabeth Fuller, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Charlotte Cartledge, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Robin Kramer, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology