New research shows that people have difficulty in correctly identifying people with realistic masks in public
Hyper-realistic silicone masks fool eight out of ten people in new research, which increases the fear of identity verification
- Researchers from the University of York have tested how sensitive people are to masks
- They created a fake passport control point in a museum and sent someone in a silicone mask to wander through the crowd
- They found that about eight out of ten people did not notice the man in the mask
According to a new study from the University of York, people are bad at detecting whether the people around them are wearing masks.
Researchers from the University of York, led by Rob Jenkins and a group of FaceVar Lab by Mike Burton, investigated how attentive the disguise of the average person in a public environment would be.
They created a fake airport checkpoint at the airport at the London Science Museum and asked 54 test subjects to evaluate a person in a realistic silicone mask who tried to cross the border by comparing his personal appearance with that of an identity document.
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Researchers from the University of York discovered that no fewer than eight out of ten people would not notice that someone in their presence was wearing a silicone mask if they were not already looking for someone in a mask
Only 13 percent of respondents said the man should be detained for further interrogation because he was in a mask, according to a report from Phys.org.
Another 11 percent said they suspected he was wearing a mask, but only after the researchers mentioned the possibility in a question.
“In general, mask detection was poor and was not predicted by unknown performance matching faces,” reported Jenkins et al.
“We conclude that hyper-realistic face masks can go unnoticed during live identity checks.”
For those who had discovered the person with a mask, the giveaways were usually subtle.
One said the mask wearer’s hairline “doesn’t look quite right,” while the other commented that his expression never seemed to change.
The results were a follow-up to an earlier experiment in which subjects were shown photos of two similar people and were asked to choose which to wear a mask
The test builds on an earlier experiment by Jenkins and his group, in which test subjects presented photos of two similar faces, one person in a realistic mask and the other not disguised at all.
Subjects had wrongly guessed which of the two people in one of the five instances wore a mask.
Jenkins suspected that the error rate would probably be much higher in environments where subjects were not consciously looking for mask signs.
“People have used disguised face masks for a long time,” Jenkins said. “But because of things like special effects used in Hollywood, technology has developed to such an extent that we have masks that are so realistic that people may not even realize that they are looking at a mask.”
According to the University of York team, silicon masks have become so realistic in recent years that they have been able to fool law enforcement officers and border controllers at airports
In recent years, people have used masks to get away with a shocking range of other behaviors.
In 2010, a man from Hong Kong passed Passport Control and boarded a flight to Canada while wearing a detailed silicone mask of an older white man.
He was not caught by passport control later, but when a fellow passenger saw him remove the mask on the plane during the flight.
In 2016, a white man in Kentucky pulled out a series of robberies with a silicone mask that made him look like a black man, and the police mistakenly arrested a black suspect based on surveillance footage.
The real robber was eventually handed over to the police by his girlfriend, who found the mask in his apartment.