Face Recognition Under Adverse Viewing Conditions : Implications for Eyewitness Testimony

Charles C-F OR*, Denise Y. LIM, Siyuan CHEN, Alan L.F. LEE

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Eyewitness testimony forms an important component in deciding whether a case can be prosecuted. Yet, many criminal perpetrators deliberately conceal their faces with disguises or under dim lighting, undermining eyewitness accuracy. This article reviews recent studies to characterize the factors that impair face recognition performance, specifically, various forms of face disguise (e.g., face masks, sunglasses) and different lighting conditions. Research shows that identification accuracy, alongside eyewitness confidence and decision bias, all affect the reliability of eyewitness accounts. A consistent finding across studies is that face-identification accuracy can be improved by matching the viewing conditions during the police lineup with those during the crime (e.g., showing masked faces during the lineup should the perpetrator be masked). Current face recognition research provides specific recommendations for optimizing the procedures in eyewitness testimony.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-271
Number of pages8
JournalPolicy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date26 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • disguise
  • encoding specificity
  • eyewitness testimony
  • face masks
  • face memory
  • lighting


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