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Updated: Jul 27, 2021

School of Human Sciences

Face and Voice Recognition Lab

Institute of Lifecourse Development

University of Greenwich


Twitter: @GRecognisers

Royal Society Open Science new paper: The effect of face masks and sunglasses

Thank you very much to all participants who took part in our June 2020 project exploring the effect of face masks and sunglasses on identity and expression recognition with super-recognisers and typical observers.

This collaborative paper has now been published in Royal Society Open Science and is accessible on the link below.

Noyes, E., Davis, J. P., Petrov, P., Gray, K. L. H., Ritchie, K. (2021). The effect of face masks and sunglasses on identity and expression recognition with super-recognizers and typical observers. Royal Society Open Science, 8, 201169.

Stop press (14 July 2021). One the collaborators, Kay Ritchie from the University of Lincoln has produced an excellent video (15 minutes) describing the research with hints of what our team are planning right now in this field.

Face masks present a new challenge for human face identification and emotion recognition in Western cultures. We tested the effect of masks and sunglasses on identity and emotion recognition. Both masks and sunglasses reduced accuracy, with most errors for masks, but overall there was little difference in performance with masks compared to sunglasses.

Super-recognisers, people with exceptional face recognition ability, were impaired by masks and sunglasses, but as a group performed more accurately than controls. Our results suggest that face masks do not present much more of a challenge than sunglasses, a face covering that we are all familiar with.

This research indicates super-recognisers still have an excellent ability for face recognition even when face coverings are present. This is an important point to consider as many individuals are now wearing face masks in everyday life.

The University of Huddersfield produced a press release for this article:

Thank you again to everyone who took part in this study, we are very grateful for your time and continued support.

Please see below for a poster summary of this research. Please feel free to click on the link beneath the image to download a larger PDF version which is easier to read.

Download PDF • 565KB


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