Monthly Archives: January 2013

I have added stuff to an old article

British former police detective and writer also a super-recognizer?

https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/british-former-police-detective-and-writer-also-a-super-recognizer/

Excellent CBS 60 Minutes story on prosopagnosia finally makes it to Aussie TV, but without super-recognizers

The excellent story about prosopagnosia from the team at the American 60 Minutes current affairs TV show at CBS has tonight been re-broadcast on the Australian version of 60 Minutes. It was good judgement that the Australian 60 Minutes didn’t do their own version of the story with video borrowed from the US show, because I doubt that they could have added much to the well-done American story, which featured prosopagnosia and super-recognition researcher Dr Brad Duchaine, the famous author, neurologist and prosopagnosic Oliver Sacks, the artist and prosopagnosic Chuck Close and a number of other prosopagnosics who generously discussed their experiences. A couple of things are disappointing about the Australian recycling of the story. One is how long it took for the story to make it onto Australian TV screens. The story was originally broadcast on US TV in March 2012. The other disappointment was the cutting out of all of the material about super-recognizers for the Australian recycling of the story. I guess Australian 60 Minutes viewers still don’t know what a super-recogniser is, and I think that is a pity.

The Australian story:

Face blind. (Australian) 60 Minutes. Reporter: Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes Producer: Shari Finkelstein Broadcast January 25th 2013.    http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8599151

The original American story:

Face Blindness. Reporter – Lesley Stahl, Producer – Shari Finkelstein, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Broadcast March 18th 2012.

SpaceX, Face Blindness.  (This is a link to the whole 60 Minutes episode, with the whole story “Face Blindness” and another story preceding it. Other links can be found to the story in 2 parts and lots of web extras.)   http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402640n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.6

Another example of visual memories of scenes as synaesthesia concurrents?

In this interesting post from last November at her blog, Debbie Pullinger, postgraduate university student and synaesthete, has described her experiences of what is apparently the involuntary retrieval of visual memories of a very specific scene triggered by reading a particular book, and how such apparently randomly retrieved visual memories can then become the setting for her visualization of the plot or the recounted events in the narrative of the book. Thank you Debbie for sharing your interesting observations! I have many times experienced the same type of experiences, and I am also a synaesthete. If I am re-reading a book that I have previously read while at an outdoor location, I will generally involuntarily experience a visual memory of the scene that I saw at the same time that I first read that book. Two of our synaesthete kids and I also experience a similar memory phenomenon which involuntarily links concepts with visual memories of scenes. I believe it is an interesting and scientifically undiscovered hybrid of synaesthesia and the memory technique known as the method of loci or the memory palace. I wrote about this phenomenon in this blog, naming it Involuntary Method of of Loci Memorization (IMLM). Debbie’s experiences of the involuntary visualization of memories of real scenes while visualizing scenes in fiction and non-fiction books is I think the same phenomenon which I described at this blog on April 26th of this year in my post about Heather Sellers’ autobiography. I find it quite fascinating the Debbie described her own visual experiences while reading a particular passage in an Oliver Sacks book in which Sacks visits a musician study subject at the person’s home and listens to the subject playing piano. Debbie inexplicably visualized this scene played out in an outdoor setting. When I read a similar scene in another Oliver Sacks book I involuntarily visualized it set in the small living room of the home unit of an long-dead aunt, the way it looked decades ago when she lived there. One point of difference between Debbie and myself is her assertion that Wednesday if a mottled, mossy green. I literally can’t see how this could be true, when the word Wednesday starts with a letter that is a yellowy-tan colour, and also has a dreary but sensible adult female personality.

There’s a great big unanswered question about the experiences that Ms Pullinger has described, and the many similar types of experiences that I have described, which appear to be types of synaesthesia in which visual memories of scenes are synaesthesia concurrents or inducers. Are these experiences peculiar to synaesthetes? Do “normal” people experience IMLM or similar experiences? Are these rare or atypical experiences? If only a minority of people have experiences such as involuntary visualization of memories of real or past scenes while reading books, what is the size of that minority? Have we described perfectly “normal” and commonplace experiences, or have we described something interesting and novel to science? I’ve been waiting in vain for an answer to this question from any scientist for a couple of years now. I’m not holding my breath.

http://debbiepullinger.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/a-sense-of-place-anyone/

Personification of inanimate objects in the “Back to School” shopping list

Photo1116

(In case you were wondering why I’m so interested in the personification of inanimate objects – I have a theory that my ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia, one of many types of synaesthesia that I experience, is closely linked in some way with my apparent super-recognizer status. If you are interested in my ideas in this area, click on the relevant tags on this post.)

Obama’s face no less fascinating

President Obama has been sworn in for the second time, and he continues to make Washington DC a more attractive place than it would otherwise have been. He is surely too pretty for politics. I never fail to be amazed, whenever I see Obama’s winning smile, how much it looks like Nelson Mandela’s winning smile, so perhaps that proves there is some precedent of good looks in politics. I also can’t help but be drawn to noticing the colours in his facial features, I’m not sure exactly why. People of mixed race like Mr Obama often have aspects of their facial appearance that catch the eye because they violate unconscious expectations about the typical appearance of the races. European features with a dark skin or vice versa will baffle the mind for a moment. Maybe this is why I’m often left with the impression that Obama’s face lacks warm colours despite his share of African melanin. Such a warm smile on a face that has so much gray in it! My visual cortex never quite knows what to make of this famous face. I’m a little suspicious of Obama’s rich brown glow at today’s stirring inauguration speech. I hope I don’t give the impression of being a racist who can’t get over a dark-skinned president. I think it could be the darker colouration around Obama’s mouth and eyes which throws my face processing hardware into a minor spin, because when I look at Obama I can’t help thinking about those Indian people who naturally have “dark rings” around their eyes and dark lips (I once had a strikingly beautiful lady of this type as a co-worker), or the most fascinating Wodaabe people of various countries in Africa. They are a physically beautiful ethnic group with some unusual customs, such as the young men wearing make-up and fancy costumes while courting. Their dark make-up around their eyes and mouth emphasizes the whiteness of their eyes and teeth. I have also seen a photo in which lines down the middle of the faces in pale make-up possibly emphasize the symmetry of the men’s faces. Wodaabe men on display are quite a spectacle, and an unforgettable sight. An evolutionary psychologist might identify the display of facial symmetry and whiteness in eyes and teeth from contrasting natural darker skin colouration and also in cultural displays using dark eye and lip make-up as displays of genetic fitness and health which are adaptive. Americans have a more succinct way of describing this phenomenon: “eye candy”.

Wodaabe ethnic group http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wodaabe&oldid=513464314

Interesting blog post, video and journal paper about automatic 3D reconstruction of faces from a single image, and more

There are obvious applications for this technology to facial recognition. It appears to be the product of research by Volker Blanz and Thomas Vetter from the Max-Planck-Institut f¨ur biologische Kybernetik. I love the way that the faces can be morphed into different levels of fat, gender and facial expressions. One thing that strikes me as odd about this research is that the facial expression that is supposed to be a frown does not look like what I’d call a frown. To my eye it looks more like the owner of the face has just been poked in an impolite place. There’s a shade of discomfort and shock in those frowns. Perhaps this is a reflection of a subtle cultural difference in the meaning of the term “frown”.

http://mayitzin.com/2013/01/11/3d-reconstruction-from-a-single-face/

http://youtu.be/fu7bTemvEKk

http://www.mpi-inf.mpg.de/~blanz/html/data/morphmod2.pdf

Here’s a one-question test for Aussie super-recognizers

Do you think you are a super-recognizer? Are you familiar with Australian actors, going back a number of decades? If you haven’t already found out about this TV show, it might be a bit of a test of your ability to identify the male actor pictured here:

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/doctorblake/

Face recognition and the Navon Task

I was looking at a Wikipedia article and discovered a claim that priming with Navon figures aides the recognition of faces, which seems like something that might be a clue to understanding prosopagnosia or a treatment for it, but then I noticed that this entire section appears to be based on the findings of only one study:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_precedence#Faces

More publication please

Out of the six or possibly more research studies of super-recognizers that I have read about, only two have been openly published in a science journal or a scientific publication. Some of the studies will probably eventually be published in this way, one has open online access to the abstract only but restricted access to the full text, one appears to have only been reported in a non-scientific foreign publication, and one I have no idea. I’d like to see more publication and more open access to research results.

Are those cameras just for decoration?

After the many incidents that I’ve seen first-hand or know about second-hand and the lack of an effective response by those whose job it is supposed to be to safeguard security in public places, large shopping centres, workplaces and on public transport, I think those shiny domes that we now see everywhere whenever we look up are mostly there as a deterrent to people with evil designs, to give the public a false sense of security and to provide recorded forensic evidence for use by police after some major crime had happened. In my experience, it is naive to expect that CCTV recordings will be useful, available or accessible in investigating a theft or minor crime against a member of the public, and I also think it naive to expect that any particular CCTV is being capably monitored by anyone, let alone a person with certified face or visual recognition ability such as a super-recognizer. In my experience, even though many workplaces can be assumed to have at least cameras installed for security, it is naive to expect that they will be monitored or recordings checked to guard the safety of employees. Members of the public, shoppers, passengers, employees and victims of crime or workplace bullying don’t own or control those cameras and as far as I know have no legal right to access any recordings, even if those are recordings involving themselves. They aren’t my cameras and they aren’t your cameras. Don’t believe the hype.

Another thing worth mentioning – those “gated” private communities for retirees and the elderly – if there is no employed security guard or security contractor or other person appointed with an explicit responsibility for security, or there is one and she or he is on holiday, or on a RDO, or is sick and has no replacement, or is not rostered on shift, or is busy doing other duties or is patrolling another site, what do you think is likely to happen should there be a threat to security? A theoretical security officer can’t intervene in an actual crime.