Detecting morphed passport photos: a training and individual differences approach

David J. Robertson, Andrew Mungall, Derrick G. Watson, Kimberley A. Wade, Sophie J. Nightengale, Stephen Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Our reliance on face photos for identity verification is at odds with extensive research which shows that matching pairs of unfamiliar faces is highly prone to error. This process can therefore be exploited by identity fraudsters seeking to deceive ID checkers (e.g., using a stolen passport which contains an image of a similar looking individual to deceive border control officials). In this study we build on previous work which sought to quantify the threat posed by a relatively new type of fraud: morphed passport photos. Participants were initially unaware of the presence of morphs in a series of face photo arrays and were simply asked to detect which images they thought had been digitally manipulated (i.e., “images that didn’t look quite right”). All participants then received basic information on morph fraud and rudimentary guidance on how to detect such images, followed by a morph detection training task (Training Group, n = 40), or a non-face control task (Guidance Group, n = 40). Participants also completed a post-guidance/training morph detection task and the Models Face Matching Test (MFMT). Our findings show that baseline morph detection rates were poor, that morph detection training significantly improved the identification of these images over and above basic guidance, and that accuracy in the mismatch condition of the MFMT correlated with morph detection ability. The results are discussed in relation to potential countermeasures for morph-based identity fraud.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2018


  • face morphs
  • identity fraud
  • identity verification
  • individual differences
  • super-recognisers
  • face matching
  • face recognition
  • passports
  • biometrics


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