New study suggests that Clark Kent’s silly disguise could actually work

Clark Kent’s “disguise” is one of the silliest in comics. He’s just wearing a pair of glasses after all. But according to a new study put together by researchers at the University of York, it could actually work!

CNN has the story, and says 59 study participants were shown side-by-side images and were then asked 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.

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 we may still find it hard to believe that the inhabitants of Metropolis are unable to match Clark Kent with the numerous appearances of Superman in newspapers and on television, we can at least understand why Kent has chosen glasses as his aid to anonymity,” the researchers said in their study.

So there you have it! Maybe Clark Kent’s disguise isn’t as silly as it seems. In real life, he’d definitely be able to fool part of Metropolis.