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Can people detect errors in shadows and reflections?

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/11/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)2917-2943
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date28/06/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The increasing sophistication of photo-editing software means that even amateurs can create compelling doctored images. Yet recent research suggests that people’s ability to detect image manipulations is limited. Given the prevalence of manipulated images in the media, on social networking sites, and in other domains, the implications of mistaking a fake image as real, or vice versa, can be serious. In seven experiments, we tested whether people can make use of errors in shadows and reflections to determine whether or not an image has been manipulated. Our results revealed that people’s ability to identify authentic and manipulated scenes based on shadow and reflection information increased with the size of the manipulation, but overall, detection rates remained poor. Consistent with theories of incomplete visual representation, one possible reason for these findings could be that people rarely encode the details of scenes that provide useful cues as to the authenticity of images. Overall, our findings indicate that people do not readily make use of shadow and reflection cues to help determine the authenticity of images—yet it remains possible that people could make use of these cues, but they are simply unaware of how to do so.