See how well you can spot photoshoped images 

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Click here to take the original test used in this study after you read the article and test your ability to spot the photoshoped images.

The social media is increasingly getting flooded with photographic fakes and photoshoped images that people find it quite difficult to spot them. Now a study in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications has found that people have “poor ability to identify whether a real-world image is original or has been manipulated”. The participants were able to spot a fake image of a real-world scene only 60% of the time, and were able to tell what is wrong with the image only 45% of the time.

For this study, the researchers tested the participants’ ability to identify common image manipulations. These manipulations were of two types — physically implausible and plausible manipulations. The physically implausible manipulations showed photos taken in daylight having shadow of objects running in different directions. Plausible manipulations included eliminating spots and wrinkles on faces or whitening teeth, which becomes difficult to find out with naked eyes.

The researchers expected the participants to correctly identify the implausible manipulations and also correctly detect and locate the manipulations.

Ten photos of different real-world scenes were randomly chosen and they applied one of the five manipulations to six photos. The five manipulations were 1) Changing the person’s appearance by removing spots, wrinkles, making teeth more white or changing the colour of eyes, 2) Adding or removing objects from the image, 3) Creating geometrical inconsistencies such as distorting the angles of buildings or showing branches of trees bending in different directions to others to indicate inconsistent wind direction, 4) Inconsistency in shadow or changing the direction of a shadow to make it incompatible with the remaining shadows in the scene, and 5) Adding all of these in one frame.

Click here to take the original test used in this study.

Applying the five manipulations to the six photos gave 30 manipulated photos.  There were also the 10 original photos. So in all there were 40 photos. Subjects saw each of the five manipulation types and five original images but always on a different photo.

Over 700 people who took the online test were shown 10 random images that included each of the five manipulation types and five original images. Participants never saw a manipulation or original form of the same image twice.


The photoshoped image (left) that went viral recently. On the right is the original photo taken during the recently concluded G20, which was manipulated to show leaders listening to Putin.

Only 66% of the photos were correctly classified as original or manipulated. And even when subjects succeeded in identifying that a photo has been manipulated, they were not always successful in locating the manipulation. That is because they were asked to select one of nine regions of the image where they suspected the photo has been manipulated. On average, the manipulations were contained within two of the nine regions. As a result, only 45% of the manipulations were accurately located.

“”Our study found that although people performed better than chance at detecting and locating image manipulations, they are far from perfect. This has serious implications because of the high-level of images, and possibly fake images, that people are exposed to on a daily basis through social networking sites, the internet and the media,” Sophie Nightingale the lead author from the University of Warwick says in a release.

In a second experiment, the researchers developed an online test to test the ability of some 660 participants to locate manipulations immaterial of whether or not the photo was manipulated. In this case, people were able to locate the alterations in the image 56% of the time.