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Background of Bias: Subtle changes in line up backgrounds increase the own race bias

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posted on 2023-02-27, 12:12 authored by Catriona HavardCatriona Havard, Emily Breese, Martin Thirkettle, Kristjan Kask

In police photo lineups there can sometimes be small variations in shades and hues of the background images due to the faces being filmed under different lighting and cameras. Own race bias refers to a situation where people are better at remembering the faces of those who are the same race as them and find it more difficult to recognise faces from a different race. In this paper we investigated the influence of small colour variations in backgrounds for the recognition of Black and White faces. Across 3 experiments we found when small changes were introduced into the backgrounds of the images this increased false identifications for previously unseen Black faces, but not White faces. This finding suggests that the police need to ensure that the backgrounds of the photo lineups they use are all uniform to reduce mistaken identifications of innocent suspects.  


A dataset collected through Gorilla for face recognition data for Experiments 2 and 3 from the paper have been uploaded in Excel. The data consists of percentage of responses from the face recognition tasks, see the Excel doc for data labels.


Please cite Havard et al (2023) A Background of Bias: Subtle changes in line up backgrounds increase the own race bias, Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, in press, if using this data. 

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  • Forensic Cognition Research Group (FCRG)

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