Cognitive Daily

Still more mystery photos!

Did you miss the cut-off for the Casual Fridays study last week? Now’s your chance to see more mystery photos. In this post, you’ll find eight new versions of the photos — ones which didn’t appear in the original study. Each photo is followed by a poll so we can track responses. The idea is to see how little information it takes to recognize and possibly identify a face. It’s been established that people can reliably discern faces from non-faces with 12 × 14 pixel images, but how about for smaller images?

As you can see, these pictures vary from 20 pixels wide down to just 6 pixels wide, so it will be interesting to see the results! Here we go…

Picture 1:


Picture 3:


Picture 5:


Picture 7:


Sorry for the bright red poll entries — my tried-and-true polling site is down, so I had to find a quick substitute.

If you think you can precisely identify any of these photos (for example, “George Washington,” “The Golden Gate Bridge”), post your guesses in the comments. In order to maximize participation, let’s limit this to two guesses per commenter.


  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    February 26, 2007

    Too annoying. First, there’s the “no editing after submission” popup that I see after every single radio button selection.

    Second, shouldn’t there be an “I have no idea” choice? There are a couple where neither “yes” nor “no” seems like an acceptable answer …

  2. #2 lindsey
    February 26, 2007

    #1 looks like dubya

  3. #3 Dave Munger
    February 26, 2007


    Again, Quimble is down so this is the best polling site I could find on short notice. Any suggestions on a better polling engine?

    Lindsey — No, not Dubya.

  4. #4 Kevin W. Parker
    February 26, 2007

    When I’m not sure, I get up and go across the room (or even out into the hall). It’s generally easy to tell what I’m looking at from that distance, interestingly enough.

  5. #5 branden
    February 26, 2007

    Number 3 looks like Angelina Jolie, though that may be wishful thinking.

  6. #6 Dave Munger
    February 26, 2007

    Branden, you’re right — 3 is Angelina Jolie.

  7. #7 Amie
    February 26, 2007

    Number 3 – Angelina Jolie
    Number 4 – Super Mario (as in Mario Bros.)

  8. #8 Chris
    February 26, 2007

    #1 is Barack Obama

  9. #9 Phronk
    February 26, 2007

    #2 is definitely Toto from The Wizard of Oz. DEFINITELY.

  10. #10 Chris
    February 26, 2007

    8 is a car – probably a ford explorer, or other large SUV

  11. #11 "Q" the Enchanter
    February 26, 2007

    I say no. 1 is Barack Obama and no. 3 is Angelina Jolie. No. 6 is Prince. (Okay, bad joke.)

  12. #12 Kimbits
    February 26, 2007

    #1 looks like a young-ish Sean Connery to me

  13. #13 Tim
    February 26, 2007

    I immediately thought “Johnny Mathis” when I saw #1, but that might be the picture of Johnny Cash from the cover of Folsom Prison Blues, too.

  14. #14 Dave Munger
    February 26, 2007

    Kimbits got it — #1 is Sean Connery.
    Q — yes, #6 is a book.

  15. #15 qetzal
    February 26, 2007

    I somehow managed to submit “yes” for #6, even though it’s obviously a book. I know, I know, the pop-up was supposed to make me double check. Sorry.

    Anyway, subtract one “yes” answer from #6, and make it “no” instead.

    P.S. I agree with Phronk; #2 looks like a small black terrier (which is what I said when I took the quiz on Friday).

  16. #16 pdf23ds
    February 26, 2007

    I think #2 is some sort of building, maybe with two towers of some sort.

  17. #17 Dr. Barnardo
    February 26, 2007

    I thought #1 was Barak Obama too.
    #2 is a cathedral, probably Notre Dame.
    #3 I didn’t get Angelina Jolie until the second time I saw it.
    #4 looks like an old portrait of a guy with big mutton chops.
    #5 looks like the “Mars face”.
    #6 was much easier to identify this time.
    #7 is either a small boy or an Asian woman.
    #8 is a boat, or maybe the top of lighthouse?

  18. #18 IllinosChainsawDiner
    February 26, 2007

    In most pictures, it is the hair, more than any other feature that gives away the face. I found myself looking for that more than anything else. You should throw in a couple of pictures of bald people and see how well people do. 🙂

  19. #19 Dave Munger
    February 26, 2007


    #2 is Notre Dame

    You’re onto something with #7


    You’re absolutely right — #8 is an SUV.

    So no one has yet got 4, 5, or 7.

    4 and 5 make sense since they’re the lowest-res photos. Interesting that 7 is also giving trouble.

  20. #20 Ed
    February 27, 2007

    I think the first one is Edward R. Murrow and the second one is Audrey Hepburn.

  21. #21 Brock
    February 27, 2007

    I also think #7 looks like an Asian woman, or maybe one of those Asian masks (i’m not sure what they are called).
    #4 looks like a rubber ducky to me.

  22. #22 K Bescherer
    February 27, 2007

    Is number 4 Napoleon? I’d have no idea, except for seeing a previous higher resolution photo on the last quiz…

  23. #23 Dave Munger
    February 27, 2007

    Yes, 4 is Napoleon, but I’d say that’s cheating!

  24. #24 John
    February 27, 2007

    #5 is osama bin laden

  25. #25 amir
    March 8, 2007

    IS there any angelina julie?
    and last one is her home?

  26. #26 Darren
    March 19, 2007

    1 looks like barack obama
    3 could be angelina jolie
    6 is a book
    7 is too pixelated to have any features that could identify the person. but not too pixelated to look like a face.

  27. #27 Paul
    October 15, 2007

    #1 is Sir Sean Connery, you fools!

    Bow before him:

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