People think white AI-generated faces are more real than actual photos, study says —

Enlarge / Eight images used in the study; four of them are synthetic. Can you tell which ones? (Answers at bottom of the article.) (credit: Nightingale and Farid (2022))

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Science on Monday found that AI-generated faces generated with three year-old technology, particularly those representing white individuals, were perceived as more real than actual face photographs, reports The Guardian. The finding did not extend to images of people of color, likely due to AI models being trained predominantly on images of white individuals—a common bias that is well-known in machine learning research.

In the paper titled "AI Hyperrealism: Why AI Faces Are Perceived as More Real Than Human Ones," researchers from Australian National University, the University of Toronto, University of Aberdeen, and University College London coined the term in the paper’s title, hyperrealism, which they define as a phenomenon where people think AI-generated faces are more real than actual human faces.

In their experiments, the researchers presented white adults with a mix of 100 AI-generated and 100 real white faces, asking them to identify which were real and their confidence in their decision. Out of 124 participants, 66 percent of AI images were identified as human, compared to 51 percent for real images. This trend, however, was not observed in images of people of color, where both AI and real faces were judged as human about 51 percent of the time, irrespective of the participant’s race.
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