September 1, 2016: Study Shows Glasses Do Help Hide Superman’s Secret Identity

superman-glassesFor years people have joked about Superman wearing glasses as his “disguise” to hide his secret identity as Clark Kent. However a recent study at the University of York has shown that even the smallest change to someone’s facial appearance, like wearing glasses, can shift our ability to identify them… if we don’t know them.

Researchers at the University of York showed 59 study participants side-by-side images and asked them to determine whether each depicted the same person. The images included three categories: people wearing glasses, people not wearing glasses or an image of someone wearing glasses paired with one that wasn’t.

Rather than showing them single images and asking for an identification to test their memory, the researchers wanted to test the participants’ visual comparison abilities by presenting the side-by-sides. The participants were not under time constraints while viewing the images.

For cases in which both images showed someone in glasses or someone not wearing glasses, 80% of the students were able to accurately identify whether it was the same person. But that accuracy dropped 6% when comparing a person wearing glasses next to someone who wasn’t.

“A 6% drop in performance may not sound like much, but if you consider the number of people who go through passport control at Atlanta International airport every year – over 100 million last year – a 6% drop in accuracy equates to 6 million misidentifications,” said Kay Ritchie, co-author of the study from the University of York’s psychology department. “We hope this work can be used to inform future policies on face identification, particularly given the discrepancy between different forms of photo ID when it comes to wearing glasses.”

While this may go a long way to explaining why people who don’t know Superman or Clark Kent don’t recognize them as being the same person, for many fans it won’t help provide a reasonable explanation for characters like Lois Lane, Perry White or Jimmy Olsen who know both.

Source: CNN.com

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superman19492002
Member
Tried this as a experiment. Went in wearing a Superman Suit and went back in later wearing my usual glasses. Folks who have known me for years didn’t realize it was me in the super suit. The surveys done so far only Focus on glasses verses no glasses. They do not take into account the distracting effect of the Superman suit its self. Couple the 2 together and throw in a lot of folks looking but not paying attention and it becomes easy to believe it as working. People also don’t expect to encounter famous folks in their every day… Read more »
Kal L
Member

I’ve always thought that the explanation that Byrne gave, as no one actually assumes that Superman has a secret identity, and that he’s supposedly Superman all the time. And if you’re looking for Superman, you’d look to the sky, as apposed to walking down the road in civilian clothing.

Also Henry Cavill also did a similar experiment just before the release of BvS.

DE-EL
Member

I remember that. He sat in Times Square in broad daylight while wearing a Superman shirt. He even had a friend take pictures. Much to everyone’s surprise, he went completely unrecognized.

Clarkel
Guest

Byrne’s explanation for the secret identity is perfect and makes the most sense: Superman would NEVER let on that he did anything other than be Superman all of the time. That’s why reporter Clark at the Daily Planet is a disguise, and Superman doesn’t wear a mask!

andramus
Member

I’ve always thought this was the case and have said so in the comments here a couple of times.

However I don’t believe this works for people you regularly interact with in both identities.

Sure Clark Kent can go into a shop and buy some groceries and no-one realises he is Superman. He could probably get away with it without even wearing the glasses.

But Lois, Perry and Jimmy not recognizing him after being face to face with him and talking with him and both identities for years? I don’t buy that.

Kal L
Member

I see your point, and I agree. On a regular basis, Perry, Jimmy and Lois especially would be able to tell.
And aside from maybe Prof. Hamilton and Maggie Sawyer, those 3 will be the only ones that both Superman and Clark both interact with.

Kal-Elvis
Member

My only thinking on that would be that when he’s Superman, there’s usually a dangerous situation happening, so there’s that distraction. Also, only Lois and Jimmy have any major interaction with him as Superman, and even then I don’t think it’d generally be as much. It wouldn’t be on enough of a consistent, casual basis to warrant a notice, is what I mean.

Not to mention, Superman and Clark have been seen together and even had their picture taken together.

Clarkel
Guest
The issue of Superman’s supporting cast at the Daily Planet recognizing him as Clark Kent because of frequent interaction with both Clark and Superman is easily remedied, as Clark does not just disguise himself with a “pair of glasses”, he’s also in a suit, and he changes his voice as reporter Clark Kent (Superman was doing this way before Batman did), he also has complete control over his muscle mass, and can contract his body/compact it to appear slimmer, and hold himself that way effortlessly throughout the day as reporter Clark Kent in order to appear smaller than Superman. It’s… Read more »
MattComics
Member

Been saying this for years to people who like patting themselves on the back for figuring out that fiction is fictional. Also people in the world of the story don’t see everything we do as readers and as people who’ve had this guy around as around as a popular character since before we were even born. I also agree that it’s mainly Planet staff where you have to make most of the leap. But is that really so bad?

Clarkel
Guest
Keep in mind, too, that it isn’t just a “pair of glasses”, he’s also in a suit, and he changes his voice as reporter Clark Kent (Superman was doing this way before Batman did), he also has complete control over his muscle mass, and can contract his body/compact it to appear slimmer, and hold himself that way effortlessly throughout the day as reporter Clark Kent in order to appear smaller than Superman. Not to mention the fact that Superman would never let on that he did anything other than be Superman all of the time, and no one would have… Read more »
Superdoc
Member

If George Clooney came into your work place and sat down at the cubicle next to yours (assuming anyone has a cubicle) and started working after saying, “Hi, I’m new here”…. I’m willing to bet most people would think/say, wow that guy looks just like George Clooney!… then get back to work.

I always contended that the prejudiced expectation of most people would be enough of a disguise…. I think that there are many people who could hide in plain sight…

Kal-Ed
Member

It could work. I once experimented without a goatie and shaved it off. Everyone at work did not recognise me at first and thought that I was simply a new guy.
I don’t wear glasses but I do think that the disguise would actually work depending if the people around your environment would truly recognise you or not

Lois
Member
Glasses do make for a very good disguise. I only wear glasses for reading. For fun I wore my Superman t-shirt and wore my usual hair style of natural way hair. (In real life I’ve got short blond hair and blue eyes and kinda look like Supergirl.) Then I wore a shirt and skirt and my reading glasses and styled my hair that it wasn’t so wavy and my bangs were combed back. People didn’t recognize me with my glasses on and different hair style! Yes, the Superman’s “Clark Kent” persona disguise with the glasses does indeed work. They also… Read more »
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