Matching two different images of an unfamiliar face is difficult, although we rely on this process every day when proving our identity. Although previous work with laboratory photosets has shown that performance is error-prone, few studies have focussed on how accurately people carry out this matching task using photographs taken from official forms of identification. In Experiment 1, participants matched high-resolution, colour face photos with current UK driving licence photos of the same group of people in a sorting task. Averaging 19 mistaken pairings out of 30, our results showed that this task was both difficult and error-prone. In Experiment 2, high-resolution photographs were paired with either driving licence or passport photographs in a typical pairwise matching paradigm. We found no difference in performance levels for the two types of ID image, with both producing unacceptable levels of accuracy (around 75%–79% correct). The current work benefits from increased ecological validity and provides a clear demonstration that these forms of official identification are ineffective and alternatives should be considered.
A growing body of research has investigated how we associate colours and social traits. Specifically, studies have explored the links between red and perceptions of qualities like attractiveness and anger. Although less is known about other colours, the prevailing framework suggests that the specific context plays a significant role in determining how a particular colour might affect our perceptions of a person or item. Importantly, this factor has yet to be considered for children’s colour associations, where researchers focused on links between colours and emotions, rather than social traits. Here, we consider whether context-specific colour associations are demonstrated by 5- to 10-year-old children and compare these associations with adult data collected on the same task. We asked participants to rank order sets of six identical images (e.g., a boy completing a test), which varied only in the colour of a single item (his T-shirt). Each question was tailored to the image set to address a specific context, for example, “Which boy do you think looks the most likely to cheat on a test?” Our findings revealed several colour associations shared by children, and many of these were also present in adults, although some had strengthened or weakened by this stage of life. Taken together, our results demonstrate the presence of both stable and changing context-specific colour associations during development, revealing a new area of study for further exploration.