Feature instructions improve face-matching accuracy
Identity comparisons of photographs of unfamiliar faces are prone to error but important for applied settings, such as person identification at passport control. Finding techniques to improve face-matching accuracy is therefore an important contemporary research topic. This study investigated whether matching accuracy can be improved by instruction to attend to specific facial features. Experiment 1 showed that instruction to attend to the eyebrows enhanced matching accuracy for optimized same-day same-race face pairs but not for other-race faces. By contrast, accuracy was unaffected by instruction to attend to the eyes, and declined with instruction to attend to ears. Experiment 2 replicated the eyebrow-instruction improvement with a different set of same-race faces, comprising both optimized same-day and more challenging different-day face pairs. These findings suggest that instruction to attend to specific features can enhance face-matching accuracy, but feature selection is crucial and generalization across face sets may be limited.