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Beware of using your profile picture or your Passport photograph because a recent study has revealed that appearances in those photos may not correspond to what you look like in real life.
Have you ever known anyone by a single profile picture and then seen them in person and and said to yourself, “Wow, he’s/she’s different.” It’s the same with movie stars and TV stars, they seldom look like themselves completely when they meet you in person. Well it turns out that, that isn’t a coincidence after all.
Dr. David White and his colleagues from UNSW Australia published a paper in the British Journal of Psychology funded by the Australian Research Council Grants and the Australian Passport Office. According to Dr. White, the matching of unfamiliar faces in photo IDs at checkpoints such as airports or Exam Center queues is harder than we are led to believe.
In an initial study, a group of 130 undergrads downloaded 10 photos of themselves from Facebook and ranked them in order of decreasing likeness. Then they participated in a minute long webcam video recording of their face; two photos were also taken, one smiling, one neutral.
Then sixteen participants who did not know the 13o students were asked to watch the video and rank the photos in order of best to worst likeness. A further 73 participants then took part in an online face matching test.
The study showed that in almost all cases, the unfamiliar participants chose a different order of likeness than the ones selected by the 130 undergrads for their own photos. And the likenesses selected by the strangers led to better results on the face matching tests taken by the 73 participants. Overall, the self selected images were matched 7% less accurately than the other selected images.
Dr. White said that existing memory representations of ourselves interfere with choosing images that represent our current appearance and that’s where strangers judge better, on current appearance, rather than on memory.
Also, smiling photographs result in more accurate matching of faces. Interestingly, smiling is prohibited during passport photography since it distorts features.