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Can you tell whether this photo has been manipulated?

If you were fooled by the recent photo of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin having an intense discussion at the G20 summit, don’t feel bad. In a recent study people were only able to spot faked images 60% of the time. And almost half of the time they were not able to tell where an image had been altered, researchers report today in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.

To conduct the research, scientists sourced 10 photos from Google and altered six of them with image editing software. Then they asked more than 700 volunteers whether the images had been manipulated. Here’s one: 

Is this photo manipulated?

Click on the image to find out.

Sophie Nightingale, Cognitive Research, 2017

In a second experiment, the scientists developed an online test to judge people’s ability to locate manipulations. They asked participants to tell where an image had been manipulated, regardless of whether people said the image had been altered in the first place. Here’s one of those photos:

Can you spot the changes?

This image has been manipulated in four places. Click for the answer.

Sophie Nightingale, Cognitive Research, 2017

In this case, people were able to locate the alterations in the image 56% of the time. Images can influence memories of the past, so if people can’t tell a real photo from a doctored one, bogus images might alter what they believe and remember, the scientists say.