Abstract: In the present study, we investigated whether police officers’ performance in searching for unfamiliar faces in a video-based real-world task is predicted by laboratory-based face processing tests that are typically used to assess individual differences in face processing abilities. Specifically, perceptual performance in the field was operationalized via the identification of target individuals in self-made close-circuit television (CCTV) video tapes. Police officers’ abilities in the laboratory were measured by the Cambridge Face Memory Test long form (CFMT+). We hypothesized that the CFMT+ predicts individual differences in the CCTV task performance. A total of N = 186 police officers of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Police participated in the study (i.e., N = 139 novice and advanced cadets with either 3 months, 15 months or 24 months of pre-service experience; N = 47 experienced police officers with three years of pre-service experience and at least two years of full-service experience, who participated in the assessment center of the special police forces, specifically the surveillance and technical unit). Results revealed that the CFMT+ explained variance in the CCTV task. In sample 1, CFMT+ scores predicted hits, but not false alarms. In contrast, in sample 2, CFMT+ scores were correlated with both hits and false alarms. From a theoretical perspective, we discuss factors that might explain CCTV task performance. From a practical perspective, we recommend that personnel selection processes investigating individual differences of police officers’ face processing abilities should comprise of two steps. At first, laboratory-based tests of face processing abilities should be applied. Subsequently, to validate laboratory-based individual differences in face processing abilities, we recommend that work samples such as CCTV tasks from the field should be added.
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