Phoebe Weston

You may think you can tell when a friend has airbrushed their photos but a study involving more than 700 people suggests you shouldn't be so confident.

Researchers found four in 10 people couldn't tell a fake picture from a real one, and even those that did notice something wrong could only spot what it was 45 per cent of the time, according to the Daily Mail.

This simple test will reveal if you have an eye for spotting fraudulent pictures - or if your friends could be pulling the wool over your eyes.

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People can only detect a fake image from a real one 60 per cent of the time, according to this study. Which of the above images do you think is fake and why? See the fact box at the bottom of the article for the answers. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017
People can only detect a fake image from a real one 60 per cent of the time, according to this study. Which of the above images do you think is fake and why? See the fact box at the bottom of the article for the answers. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017

"Our study found that although people performed better than chance at detecting and locating image manipulations, they are far from perfect", said Sophie Nightingale, PhD Student and lead author from the University of Warwick.

"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", she said.

The researchers set up an online test that used a bank of 40 images created from 10 original images sourced from Google Images.

Six of the original images were subjected to five different types of manipulation, including physically implausible and physically plausible manipulations, to create 30 manipulated images.

Is the image on the left or the right fake and why? Scroll down to the fact box at the bottom of the article to find out if you were correct. The study has serious implications for people who are exposed to modified images on social media sites. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017
Is the image on the left or the right fake and why? Scroll down to the fact box at the bottom of the article to find out if you were correct. The study has serious implications for people who are exposed to modified images on social media sites. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017

The 707 participants in 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.

Around 60 per cent of images were correctly identified as being manipulated when participants were asked "Do you think this photo has been digitally altered?", which was just over the chance performance of 50 per cent.

Of the people that answered "yes" to this question only a mean 45 per cent of manipulations could be correctly located in the image when a grid overlay was placed on the image and participants were prompted to select the regions where a manipulation was present.

Even then those that did notice something wrong could only spot what it was 45 per cent of the time. One of these images has been changed but which one is it and where? See how observant you are by scrolling to the bottom of the article for the answer. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017
Even then those that did notice something wrong could only spot what it was 45 per cent of the time. One of these images has been changed but which one is it and where? See how observant you are by scrolling to the bottom of the article for the answer. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017

"We found that people were better at detecting physically implausible manipulations but not any better at locating these manipulations, compared to physically plausible manipulations", said Dr Derrick Watson, study co-author from the University of Warwick.

"So even though people are able to detect something is wrong they can't reliably identify what exactly is wrong with the image.

"Images have a powerful influence on our memories so if people can't differentiate between real and fake details in photos, manipulations could frequently alter what we believe and remember", he said.

In a second experiment using an image set created by the researchers 659 people completed an online task that tested their ability to locate manipulations regardless of whether or not they said there was one present.

One of these images has been changed slightly but can you spot which one? Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017
One of these images has been changed slightly but can you spot which one? Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017

The results revealed ability to detect something wrong was similar - an average 65 per cent of the time - to the first experiment.

But manipulations were accurately located in the image 39 per cent more of the time than expected by chance.

This suggests people are better at the more direct task of locating manipulations than the more general one of detecting if a photo has been manipulated or not.

Dr Kimberley Wade, study co-author from the University of Warwick, said the study had worrying legal implications.

"People's poor ability to identify manipulated photos raises problems in the context of legal proceedings where photos may be used as evidence", she said.

What is odd about one of these photos and why? Scroll to the bottom of the article for the answers. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017
What is odd about one of these photos and why? Scroll to the bottom of the article for the answers. Photo / Sophie Nightingale Cognitive Research, 2017

"Jurors and members of the court assume these images to be real, though a manipulated image could go undetected with devastating consequences", she said.

"We need to work to find better ways to protect people from the negative effects of photo manipulation, and we're now exploring a number of ways that might help people to better detect fakes."

Last year a study found up to 80 per cent of students in the US couldn't tell the difference between sponsored content and a real news story.

Fake news refers to news from dubious sources, advertising content, or stories that are just totally made up - but which still go viral on Facebook and Twitter.

How did you go?

SET 1: Fake image is the one on the right (Geometrical manipulation of white post).
SET 1: Fake image is the one on the right (Geometrical manipulation of white post).
SET 2: Fake image is the one on the left (airbrushed).
SET 2: Fake image is the one on the left (airbrushed).
SET 3: Fake image is the one on the left (shadow manipulation on the tree line).
SET 3: Fake image is the one on the left (shadow manipulation on the tree line).
SET 4: Fake image is the one on the right (shadow removed from the glass).
SET 4: Fake image is the one on the right (shadow removed from the glass).
SET 5: Fake image is the one on the right (the man's shadow has been modified).
SET 5: Fake image is the one on the right (the man's shadow has been modified).