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Dirk Plante, Josh Davis, David Robertson

Accurate identity judgments are critical in ensuring that suspects can be apprehended by law enforcement and national security agencies and that fraud attacks do not go undetected at border control points. Research has shown that typical human observers are poor at facial recognition in these contexts. However, there is now a decade's worth of science which shows that some individuals - known as super recognizers - excel at such tasks.

This video podcast is part one of a two-part series on the topic of super recognizers and facial recognition. In this podcast, Dirk Plante, Deputy Director of HDIAC, interviews two subject matter experts, Dr Josh P Davis and Dr David Robinson, on facial recognition, discussing the definition of super recognizer and what makes a person more or less likely to possess the ability to be a super recognizer. This podcast also discusses methods that organizations can use to identify if they have personnel who are super recognizers. The next step of effectively utilizing this talent is also outlined.

Read the HDIAC Journal article on the same topic and authored by the interviewees here:

Davis, J. P., & Robertson, D. (2020). Capitalizing on the super-recognition advantage: A powerful, but underutilized, tool for policing and national security agencies. Journal of the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center, 7(1), 20-25.

Host: Dirk Plante is the Deputy Director at the HDIAC where he contributes to the research and development of products across the HDIAC's eight technical focus areas. He culminated a 30-year career in the U.S. Army in 2019 as the Chief of Staff and later Chief for Survivability and Effects Analysis at the U.S. Army Nuclear and Countering WMD Agency, Fort Belvoir, VA. Dirk holds a Master in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Guests: Josh P. Davis, Ph.D., is a Reader in Applied Psychology at the University of Greenwich ( His PhD was on the "Forensic Identification of Unfamiliar Faces in CCTV Images" (2007) and he has since published research on human face recognition and eyewitness identification, the reliability of facial composite systems (e.g., E-FIT, EFIT-V), and methods used by expert witnesses to provide evidence of identification in court ('facial comparison evidence'). He is a member of the Experimental Psychology Society and the British Psychological Society. He regularly features in the international media (e.g., BBC, ITV, Sky TV (UK), CBS (USA), TV 2 (Denmark), Galileo (Germany), Fantastico (Brazil), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), NHK (Japan), NBC, New York Times, Washington Post (USA) and his first co-edited book "Forensic Facial Identification: Theory and Practice of Identification from Eyewitnesses, Composites and CCTV" (Wiley Blackwell) was published in 2015 (Valentine & Davis, 2015). See

David J. Robertson, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow) School of Psychological Sciences and Health ( David completed his PhD at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience before going on to work as a post-doctoral researcher in Professor Mike Burton's FaceVar lab. He joined the University of Strathclyde in 2017 where he established the Strathclyde Applied Cognitive Psychology Lab (, which focuses on applied face recognition research. He has published several scientific papers on individual differences in facial recognition ability, and the detection of emerging face-based identity fraud techniques. He has presented this research at national and international conferences to both academic and practitioner audiences including the UK Home Office and Europol. David is also a keen science communicator, his research on face averages received global media attention, and he is a regular contributor to The Conversation.


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