• Josh Davis

Uni of Greenwich-tested off-duty Stuttgart Police super-recognisers spontaneously identify fugitives

Updated: Feb 10

Team University of Greenwich Super-Recognisers worked with Stuttgart Police in 2019 to identify super-recognisers in their workforce. About 1,800 police started the tests and some very high scorers were identified (see Davis, 2019 for details of tests https://tinyurl.com/w96yyu7 originally published in the Cognitive Bulletin).

It is quite rare for successful suspect identifications to make the media. However, this report in Stuttgarter Nachrichten - use Google Translate if not German) describes two cases in which off-duty super-recogniser police spontaneously spotted previously unfamiliar criminal fugitives while travelling on public transport.

https://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.ungewoehnliche-festnahme-in-stuttgart-superauge-der-polizei-entdeckt-gesuchten-dieb.2b538271-cb93-4200-9ddd-e1ebe379a814.html

No details are provided as to how long previously the super-recognisers had been viewing the suspect images on a police database/briefing document. However, these (anecdotal and not empirically-generated) cases provide some positive data supporting the use of generic testing in four domains for this type of role.

The Greenwich tests examine

1. Short-term unfamiliar face memory 2. Long-term unfamiliar face memory (which seems best to match the fugitive identifications) 3. Simultaneous unfamiliar face matching 4. Spotting unfamiliar faces in a crowd (we do not know whether the fugitives were alone or not)

Of course, it is impossible to estimate whether these super-recognisers may have encountered other fugitives in the past in similar situations but missed identifying them. Furthermore, the Greenwich tests do not measure 'spontaneity" of identifications. This would be almost impossible to evaluate, as even, if, for instance, as part of a study, stooges acting as fugitives sat opposite an off-duty super-recogniser on a train, that super-recogniser might be reading a book and might not be viewing fellow passengers. To identify anyone, engagement of attention and perception - as well as memory - are all required.


This would be almost impossible to evaluate, as even, if, for instance, as part of a study, stooges acting as fugitives sat opposite an off-duty super-recogniser on a train, that super-recogniser might be reading a book and might not be viewing fellow passengers. To identify anyone, engagement of attention and perception - as well as memory - are all required. Stop press: 8 February 2020: Stuttgarter Nachrichten report the story of another Stuttgart Police super-recogniser (Mirko Jovanovic) here: - https://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.polizei-in-stuttgart-das-adlerauge-des-gesetzes.065b8684-0bd6-41b5-930e-95d30620dc9a.html

Reference

Davis, J. P. (2019). The worldwide impact of identifying super-recognisers in police and business. The Cognitive Psychology Bulletin; Journal of the British Psychological Society: Cognitive Section, 4, 17-22. ISSN: 2397-2653.

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