Whenever you bring together dozens of different countries from around the globe, there’s bound be some cross-cultural confusion. The World Cup is no exception.
And if you’re Shin Tae-yong, coach of the South Korean national team, you figure out how to work that confusion to your advantage. In a press conference Sunday, Shin explained the unusual tactic he’d employed against scouts from the Swedish team: He’d had his team members swap jersey numbers for the warm-up games, in hopes that scouts wouldn’t be able to tell the players apart.
“It’s very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians,” Shin explained, as quoted by ESPN. He added, “We wanted to confuse the Swedish team … That’s why we did that.” Shin’s comments came after a Swedish scout was believed to have observed a closed practice of the South Korean team.
Shin’s strategy didn’t pay off quite the way he intended — Sweden beat South Korea 1-0 in their match earlier today.
But we wanted to know whether or not the jersey-swap actually might have tripped people up. Are Westerners really that bad at telling apart Asian faces, as Shin claimed?
To help explain the science, we spoke to Alice O’Toole, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, who has been researching human recognition of faces since the late 1990s.
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