An Easy Game for Frauds? Effects of Professional Experience and Time Pressure on Passport-Matching Performance

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Abstract

Despite extensive research on unfamiliar face matching, little is known about factors that might affect matching performance in real-life scenarios. We conducted 2 experiments to investigate the effects of several such factors on unfamiliar face-matching performance in a passport-check scenario. In Experiment 1, we assessed the effect of professional experience on passport-matching performance. The matching performance of 96 German Federal Police officers working at Munich Airport was compared with that of 48 novices without specific face-matching experience. Police officers significantly outperformed novices, but nevertheless missed a high ratio of frauds. Moreover, the effects of manipulating specific facial features (with paraphernalia like glasses and jewelry, distinctive features like moles and scars, and hairstyle) and of variations in the physical distance between the faces being matched were investigated. Whereas manipulation of physical distance did not have a significant effect, manipulations of facial features impaired matching performance. In Experiment 2, passport-matching performance was assessed in relation to time constraints. Novices matched passports either without time constraints, or under a local time limit (which is typically used in laboratory studies), or under a global time limit (which usually occurs during real-life border controls). Time pressure (especially the global time limit) significantly impaired matching performance.

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