Dr David White

Dr David White

Dr David White

ARC Future Fellow & Scientia Senior Lecturer

PhD in Psychology (Uni of Glasgow, 2008)

BSc (Hons) in Psychology (Uni of York, 2003)

Contact details

Phone: (02) 9385 3254
Email: Dr David White

Office: Mathews Building, Room 1002

Research Summary

I am lead investigator in the Face Research Lab at UNSW. I am interested in face perception with a focus on individual differences in people's ability to perform face processing tasks. Although we all look at many faces each day, we do not all have the same abilities to process the important social information that they contain.

These individual differences have important implications for theoretical understanding of perceptual processing and social cognition, as well as implications for people's everyday lives. They are also of substantial applied interest in settings where accurate face identification decisions are critical to identity management processes, for example in government, police, private industry and courts. Errors in these decisions can have profound social consequences, such as identity theft, acts of terrorism or wrongful convictions.

Our work in this area encompasses performance testing of humans and technology. Interest in facial recognition technology is both applied and theoretical. From an applied perspective, we are interested in how people use and collaborate with facial recognition technology when making face identity judgments – for example in criminal investigations and forensic science evidence reports. From a theoretical perspective, we are interested in the potential for modern facial recognition technology – Deep Neural Networks – to model aspects of the face processing system in humans. 

Research areas: Face recognition, person perception, perceptual expertise, individual differences.

Forensic Psychology Labhttp://forensic.psy.unsw.edu.au/


Course coordinator: PSYC1001, PSYC1011

Teaching: PSYC2071, PSYC4093, PSYC7403.


This is a representatve list of my research. For a full publication list please visit my Google Scholar page.

White, D., Guilbert, D., Varela, V. L. P., Jenkins, R. & Burton, A. M. (2021). GFMT2: A psychometric measure of face matching ability. Behaviour Research Methods. [https://psyarxiv.com/a3fh4]

White, D., Towler, A., & Kemp, R. I. (2021). Understanding professional expertise in unfamiliar face matching. In M. Bindemann (Ed.), Forensic face matching: Research and practice. Oxford University Press. [https://psyarxiv.com/z2ugp]

Dunn J. D., Summersby S., Towler A., Davis J. P., White D. (2020). UNSW Face Test: A screening tool for super-recognizers. PLoS ONE 15(11): e0241747. [doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241747]

Towler, A., Kemp, R. I., Burton, A. M., Dunn, J. D., Wayne, T., Moreton, R., & White, D. (2019). Do professional facial image comparison training courses work?. PloS one, 14(2), e0211037. [https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211037]

Ramon, M., Bobak, A. K., & White, D. (2019). Super‐recognizers: From the lab to the world and back again. British Journal of Psychology. [https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12368]

Dunn, J. D., Ritchie, K. L., Kemp, R. I., & White, D.* (2019). Familiarity does not inhibit image-specific encoding of faces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45(7), 841-854. [http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/34899/1/dunn_etal_JEPHPP_2019.pdf]

Balsdon, T., Summersby, S., Kemp, R. I. & White, D. (2018). Improving face identification with specialist teams. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3:25. [doi: 10.1186/s41235-018-0114-7].

Phillips, P.J, Yates, A.N., Hu, Y., Hahn, C. A., Noyes, E., Jackson, K., Cavazos, J. G., Jeckeln, G., Ranjan, R., Sankaranarayanan, S., Chen, J., Castillo, C. D., Chellappa, R., White, D.& O’Toole, A. J. (2018). Face recognition accuracy in Forensic examiners, Super-Recognisers and Algorithms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (24), 6171-6177 [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1721355115].

Towler, A., White, D., Ballantyne, K., Searston, R. A., Martire, K. A. & Kemp, R. I. (2018). Are forensic scientists experts? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7 (2), 199-208. [doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2018.03.010].

White, D., Sutherland, C.A.M, Burton, A.L. (2017). Choosing face: The curse of self in profile image selection. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. [doi: 0.1186/s41235-017-0058-3]

Towler, A., White, D., & Kemp, R. I. (2017). Evaluating the feature comparison strategy for forensic face identification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 23(1), 47-58. [doi: 10.1037/xap0000108] 

White, D.,Palermo, R.,Rivolta, D., Al-Janabi, S. & Burton, A. M. (2017). Face matching impairment in developmental prosopagnosia. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 287-297. [doi: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1173076]

White, D., Dunn, J. D., Schmid, A. C. & Kemp, R. I. (2015). Error rates in users of automatic face recognition software. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139827. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139827].

White, D., Phillips, P. J., Hahn, C. A., Hill, M., & O’Toole, A. J. (2015). Perceptual expertise in forensic facial image comparison. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 282, 1814-1822.[doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.1292] 

White D, Kemp RI, Jenkins R, Matheson M, Burton AM (2014) Passport Officers’ Errors in Face Matching. PLoS ONE 9(8): e103510. [doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0103510]

White, D., Burton, A. M., Jenkins, R. & Kemp, R. I. (2014). Redesigning photo-ID to improve unfamiliar face matching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 20 (2), 166-173. [doi:10.1037/xap0000009]

White, D., Kemp, R. I., Jenkins, R. & Burton, A. M. (2014). Feedback training for facial image comparison. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21 (1), 100-106.  [doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0475-3] 

Jenkins, R., White, D., Van Monfort, X. & Burton, A. M. (2011). Variability in photos of the same face. Cognition, 121 (3), 313-323. [doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.08.001]

Burton, A. M., White, D. & McNeill, A. (2010). The Glasgow Face Matching Test. Behavior Research Methods, 42, 286-291. [doi: 10.3758/BRM.42.1.286]

Awards, Fellowships & Grants

Current projects:

2021-2025: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT200100353: "Faces in context: a new ecological paradigm for person identification"

2019-2022: Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP190102916: “Information sampling in superior face identifiers” 


Current Research Students

Rebecca Tyler 

Victor Varela

Anita Trinh 

Personal Links

Take the UNSW Face Test to find out if you are a 'super-recogniser'.

Forensic Psychology Lab

Evidence Based Forensics Initiative