Amazed, not in a good way

The 2013 journal paper that ripped-off my excellent and original idea linking synaesthesia with specific elements of the immune system (published in this blog in 2012) has been reprinted as a chapter in a book that was published just a few months ago. One of the book’s authors is also one of the two authors of that paper, and another one of the book’s authors was an editor of that paper. Have these people no shame?

The offending paper has also been cited in a 2015 paper by two of the book’s authors

Also not nice to know that recent work of those researchers was scheduled to be presented by one of them at the Eleventh Annual National Conference of the American Synesthesia Association at the University of Miami, Florida, held last month. This year’s conference was organized by the same academic who was the reviewer of the offending 2013 journal paper.

And one of those researchers will be the supervisor of a PhD studentship beginning January 2016

I’d like to invite those involved (so many of them) to individually or collectively go and dip their left eyes in hot cocky cack, to quote an Australian cinema classic



This week’s New Scientist has cover story about super-recognizers

The more important posts in this blog

Endless hours of winter-time reading for blog readers in the northern hemisphere, or hours of sitting-under-an-air-conditioner reading for readers south of the equator:


Influence of cross-race effect and anxiety on face recognition in Australian study

A pity this science news article does not include a link to the study, as the results sound interesting.

I wonder how a super-recognizer might have fared as a study subject in this study? Would supers have the self-confidence to avoid the impairment in performance that comes with anxiety, while not being so over-confident that they fail to take the extra care to see through racial bias while memorizing and recalling foreign faces? Are metacognitive skills an element of super-recognition? Could this be a clue to why face memory is a cognitive ability that peaks in performance at a remarkably late age in human development? (Please remember, readers in academia, that if you use without acknowledgement original ideas that you have read at this blog, I will not be pleased at all.)

Payne, Rob Anxiety increases error, but not bias, in facial recognition. Science Network. November 20th 2015.


Colour-blindness a variation in visual perception ability possibly endowing advantages relevant to work performance, rather than simply a disability

Payne, Rob Colour-blindness may aid in search and rescue effort. Science Network. November 11th 2015.

The idea that colour-blindness can be advantagous is not new to me, as last year I watched with great interest a story on ABC24’s News Breakfast in which the colour-blind presenter Michael Rowland explained his advantage over people with normal colour vision in visually detecting camouflaged items. Unfortunately the clip of this story is no longer available to view.

Vision scientist explains colour blindness. ABC News Breakfast. 7 Apr 2014.


Eagleman always working on very interesting research

This article in the October 10th 2015 issue of New Scientist about David Eagleman by Helen Thomson is well worth a look, but unfortunately behind a paywall. Dr Eagleman is known to me as a leading synaesthesia researcher whose team developed the world’s best test of synaesthesia, which anyone can do online at no cost, and get the full results. The recent article is not about synaesthesia at all, but the research theme is very similar to synaesthesia in that it is about a device created by Eagleman and his team that can use one sensory modality to sense input that is completely different to what is normally sensed through that sense. The versatile extrasensory transducer (VEST) can convert non-sensory data streams or sensory information into touch sensory input, and apparently Eagleman’s team are trying to find out if it can be used to help the deaf to hear through the sensory mode of touch, which would be a clever feat on a par with blind people who can echolocate. Some of the other ideas about using the device to sense data streams fascinate me with the wide-open potential for this technology, but the idea of using this kind of technology to monitor one’s own blood glucose level seems redundant. Surely a more efficient way to acquire this skill would be through feedback training to boost a latent natural ability to sense this biological state? I am certain that I can sense my own blood pressure levels, and probably many other states.

Dr Eagleman has a new TV series airing in the USA and a book out that is a companion to the series. How long until we will see them here in Australia? I can only guess, and wait.

Eagleman Laboratory

The Brain with David Eagleman

Why you will leave shops empty-handed this Christmas season, just the same as last year, and the year before that….

As sure as night follows day, in the days leading up to Christmas supermarkets will run out of packets of dehydrated French onion soup, just when you had the idea to make your own cheap but tasty party dips out of cream cheese or sour cream and the aforementioned processed soup. I’m guessing this happens every year because the state-of-the-art stock ordering computer programs used by the supermarkets group products into categories, and soup being a product range that generally sells more in winter, is not ordered in any quantity in the summer season leading up to Christmas in Australia. Perhaps a similar logic explains why breakfast foods such as hash browns and kippers become scarce in the festive season. I’m guessing that cooked breakfast foods aren’t items in the summer range, even though big cooked breakfasts have been a popular form of family Christmas meal in Australia since the 1990s.

More common and perennial problems in stock replenishment in retail establishments are the big empty chasms where useful and desirable products are supposed to be stocked, and the related problem of the wrong product housed in slots on variety and supermarket shelves. These issues are a problem for retailers, as in the former situation a sale does not happen and in the latter situation the item stocked will most likely be advertised at the wrong price. If the shopper has seen a box of 375g salted mixed nuts stocked in a slot displaying a price of $3.00, around $3.05 less than the price that it scans at, the customer has every right to insist that they be sold the item at the lesser price that they saw when they selected the item, even though I’ve found that staff at a local Woolworths supermarket will defend their right to display $8 pots of bubble-mix in the slot in the toy section designated to $3 bubble mix, not conceding one red cent of discount, whatever the consumer law might say. Shoppers also have a problem when stuff isn’t kept in the shops where stuff is meant to be found. When confronted with fresh air where an item on their shopping list should be found a shopper could feel peeved, because they then have to walk across the shopping centre or drive across town to source an alternative, or do without. And when they are confronted with incorrectly shelved items they may become misled or confused over the price. And the problem goes deeper than that. When some dunce fills a box of Fimo soft light modelling clay packets into a slot at an Officeworks store which was supposed to house similar-sized packages of Das air-drying modelling clay, and hangs an “out-of-stock” sign where the Fimo item should reside, the Fimo is then advertised at the wrong price as a different product, and I’m guessing when the automatic stock-ordering system delivers more of the Das clay, which is really out-of-stock, the shelf-stocking person might find an full slot where their box of Das product should be placed. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but I know that in supermarket night-fill operations the workers are placed under constant pressure to throw product onto the shelves fast, so there isn’t time for anyone to pull the twenty-three blackcurrant jam jars out of the blackberry jam slot, rebox or rehouse them all, and then refill the slot with the contents of the box of blackberry jam. What will probably happen is that the box of blackberry jam will be marked as overstock and returned to the back of the supermarket on a cage to languish in darkness for an indefinite sentence. I hope you like blackcurrant jam, and I hope you don’t have an allergic reaction to the hazelnut wafers that were shelved in the chocolate wafers slot.

I understand that once retail shelves have been allowed to degrade into a state of chaos the disorder becomes a self-perpetuating system, and I know that hope can never be held for any logic or order in any retail space devoted to an extensive range of light globes, but I also wonder whether I’m the only one who sees the errors in product stocking every time I walk into a shop or walk down a retail aisle. Do other shoppers notice the boxes of fish fingers heaped six-high above the fill-line in the freezers? Do store managers notice the expired use-by dates, the 600ml bottles sitting in the 300ml bottle slot, the grey bacon, or does it not register? If they do see the mess and the mistakes, does it not bother them?

The phrase “an eye for detail” pops up fairly frequently in the world of recruiting and HR but no one ever tests for it, and as far as I know, there are no valid, reliable, standardised tests relevant to “eye for detail” and I know of no scientific definition of this ability (readers please correct me and inform me if you know more about this than I do). The standard of spelling ability of job applicants might be used to estimate “eye for detail”, but this standard is a fairly low bar, and it is also not an area of ability that another poor speller is able to judge. One fundamental truth that I’ve learned in researching the science of face memory and visual recognition is that seeing doesn’t simply happen in the eyes, it happens in the eyes and brain. You can have your eyes open but not really see if your brain isn’t processing the information supplied by your eyes, and that is why we all get to see so many dark, empty spaces when we are trying to stock up for the silly season.

Wow, I just lost all respect for The Met

…which is a pity as the Metropolitan Police in London are apparently world leaders in the use of super-recognizers in law enforcement.

Coghlan, Andy Expert witness on “shaken baby syndrome” faces misconduct charge. New Scientist. October 6th 2015, amended October 7th 2015.


French movie based on Vargas novel don’t add up to me

As far as I can tell, L’Homme aux cercles bleus is another movie, like the Bollywood movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, that has a plotline that relies upon the leading female character having prosopagnosia, but then again, a good many drama films from any part of the world leave me either baffled or behind. All the same, I can honestly say I saw the twist in the plot way before the ending, and there was nothing subtle about it.

I could watch Charlotte Rampling’s face all night long. Oh wait, I just did. Those eyes. Those expressions. What a face.

A little bit of awareness promoted on ABC television (Australian)

Nice to see prosopagnosia briefly mentioned and explained on this popular Australian TV series about modern manners. The perennial problem of memorizing the name that goes with the face was also touched upon.

How Not To Behave. Series 1 Ep 11 Dinner And Parties. ABC. Broadcast September 30th 2015.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.