By day, Clark Kent is a dedicated journalist who strives to shine truth and fight for the little man in Metropolis. But when the shy, small-town man removes his glasses, Clark Kent is gone. In his stead lies Superman, who no one in Metropolis seems to suspect is actually Clark Kent. Not even his co-workers, including close confident Lois Lane, who often report stories about Superman, realize that the flying superhero works in an adjacent cubicle. Personally, I’ve always found Superman’s “disguise” hilarious, but then again it’s just something you learn to phase out and accept as part of the Superman universe. But apparently wearing glasses does indeed make it hard for people to recognize you, according to a recent study.
People of Metropolis — not the morons everyone thinks they are
Researchers from University of York’s Department of Psychology showed participants faces of people in a natural pose, similar to headshots you often see on Facebook or other social networks. The images were presented in pairs by three categories: glasses-wearing faces; a pair with only one person wearing glasses; and finally a pair with no one wearing glasses. Each participant had to judge whether the faces shown in each pair depict the same person or not.
In those cases where both of the faces wore glasses or where neither wore glasses, participants were right 80 percent of the time. When one face wore glasses, and the other didn’t, participants were significantly less able to identify when the same person was there, scoring about six percent lower.
These findings published in Applied Cognitive Psychology suggest that, generally, people find it difficult to match strangers’ faces. When they wear glasses, the challenge is even greater.
Besides proving Clark Kent could have actually pulled it off, the results could be useful to improve the security of passports and other ID cards.
“We hope that this research can be used by legal authorities to help inform future policies on identification for security purposes, particularly in the UK where individuals who normally wear glasses are required to remove them for their identification cards,” the researchers wrote.