Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Researchers say we suck at telling real faces apart from weird-looking silicone ones
Screenshot: Wired (YouTube)

For too long, we’ve collectively scoffed at the conspiracy theorists who believe the world is secretly controlled by a group of nefarious lizard people who walk among us in human disguises. While we know aliens definitely exist and are just waiting for the right moment to come out of hiding and usher in a new age of global peace, there’s just no way that intergalactic reptilians could fool our keen senses with artificial face masks.

Well, as it turns out, we’re absolutely wrong about that last one. Researchers have proven that we’re not nearly as good at telling fake from real faces as we might think. For proof, consider what Wired’s Matt Simon found when he talked to University Of York psychologist Rob Jenkins about how easily humans are tricked by realistic masks.

The video interview sees Simon discussing how “hyperrealistic silicone masks,” which have become affordable enough for ordinary people to buy, are capable of fooling us into thinking rubbery faces are actually real. Jenkins describes studies that look into whether the kind of masks featured above are so believable that we’re truly tricked by them or whether our brains are simply misled by seeing a fake face where we expect a real one to be. What he found is that “about one in five trials” saw participants, even when given lots of time to study an image, unable to discern whether they were looking at fake or authentic faces.


Jenkins and Simon talk about what kind of ramifications this may have, including how more affordable masks allow for people like the “Geezer Bandit,” who likely wore a Bad Grandpa-style old man mask while committing robberies, to carry out his crimes without, um, breaking the bank. What they don’t touch on is the far more terrifying criminal potential already being explored by people wearing realistic baby and little girl masks to make extraordinarily unnerving internet videos. Whether they’re hiding lizard people or not, mask technology has already given us plenty to worry about.

Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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