Coronation Street
Coronation Street (jayneandd, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Researchers are looking for fans of the world’s longest running TV soap opera to take part in a study exploring how people’s ability to recognise a face changes over time.
The research, by academics at the University of Plymouth and the Open University, centres around some of the best known characters from ITV’s Coronation Street.
First launched in 1960, the show has produced characters who have graced the screens in homes across the country for – in some cases – more than six decades.
For the current study, researchers are looking for people who have watched the show at least once a week for the last 20 years.
They will be shown a series of images of different Coronation Street characters who have been part of the show for all of that time.
The task for participants will be to look at all the images and determine whether, in their mind, they represent a good likeness of the character. A second element of the task will be to match images to a character’s name.
Dr Mila Mileva, Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth and a postdoctoral fellow of the British Academy, is coordinating the research.

As we become familiar with someone, our brains collect information about the different ways in which that person might look and this should incorporate any specific changes due to aging. As a result, if you ask a person to recollect someone, or in this instance a TV character, a particular image will pop into their head. This mental image could in fact be from many years ago, and significantly influence their ability to recognise current images. In the case of factors such as passport control and identity protection, having a better understanding of those influences is critically important.

Mila MilevaMila Mileva
Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Mileva has previously worked on a number of studies into facial recognition and perception, with much of her current work centred on how people form first impressions when meeting someone for the first time.
She hopes the results of the current study will build on her previous work, which included a study which found people were more likely to accurately match two smiling images of the same person compared to two neutral images.
Dr Mileva added:
“In a normal facial recognition task, most people have score around 80% and that is actually quite poor, given how often we use our face as proof of our identity. It is particularly concerning when you consider that on your passport or driving licence, for example, the picture of you can be up to 10 years old. So when you show it to any person in authority, you are relying on them being able to recognise that the person stood in front of them is in fact the person pictured. Learning about how we recognise familiar identities such as Ken Barlow or Steve McDonald could definitely help us improve unfamiliar face recognition."
To take part in the study, participants will need a computer or laptop and the study will take around 20 minutes to complete. For more information about how to take part, visit All participants will have the opportunity to enter a free prize draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher.

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