On the weekend we visited “the hills”. Communities in picturesque forest locations a bit away from the city tend to have a lot of arts and crafts and historical attractions and also lots of second-hand book shops. They are a lot like Fremantle, but not a port and there’s less foreign tourists and probably not nearly as many junkies. Can any community have too much “arts and crafts”? I think it is possible. Why paint life badly when you could be experiencing it instead? Browsing second-hand bookshops is also a questionable use of time, but I can’t keep out of them. I know the vast majority of their stock has a value that is close to landfill, but now and then I come across a forgotten book that adds something unique to a current interest. In one second-hand bookshop I spotted an old, stained and overpriced copy of a book about recognizing people written by the legendary mnemonist Harry Lorayne, whose specialty was memorizing the names of people in the audience in incredible quantities, presumably mentally linking names with faces.
For a person with a scientific interest in face memory, a performer like Lorrayne is of interest. How did he do it? Did he have superior face memory? Did he have a technique for improving face memory? I didn’t buy the book by Lorrayne, but I scanned through it to get an idea what all of the chapters were about, and as far as I can tell, there’s no technique in the book except mnemonic techniques for creating and memorizing visual images that are visual-conceptual mnemonics for linking people’s names to their faces. As far as I can tell Lorayne’s techniques are all about linking names with faces, but offer no tips or help in visually memorizing the faces. As far as I can tell, Lorrayne takes normal face memory in the reader for granted, so I doubt that a prosopagnosic would find anything to help in his book. I can imagine that a face-blind person might have bought this book in the hope that it would help, and be left disappointed and confused. We should be very grateful to the researchers in psychology and neuroscience who are giving us more and more real information and advice about face memory and prosopagnosia and other perceptual abilities and disabilities. Reliable information, useful tests and the latest research findings can be found through the internet. Ignorance should be left behind in dusty old second-hand book shops.