Monthly Archives: July 2013

Just a thought

Is there any connection between transgender-ism and personification processes in cognition or in personification synaesthesia? I’ve no reason to believe that trannies are any more likely to be synaesthetes or vice versa, but I can’t help wondering whether being transgender could be an odd or questionable type of (gender) personification of the self, while ordinal-linguistic personification is an odd type of personification applied to the concepts of numbers and letters (and other things in some cases). Is self-image and self-concept different to the personification of other people with characteristics such as gender and age and personality? Is self-image and self-concept different to the odd personification a different kind of thinking to that found in ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia? Why do some/many people experience odd types of personification? Note that OLP involves the personification of characteristics beyond gender. It can also involve ages, appearance, personalities and personal relationships. So I wonder whether there are people who feel that they have personal characteristics other than gender that don’t appear to match their physical being? Are there people who feel that they are the wrong age or the wrong weight or a mismatch in some other way?

How’s your ability in voice perception?

Guess a person’s age from their voice. New Scientist.

I tried the test but got no score or feedback about how I did compared to others who’ve done the test. I think I did well, with most age judgements within 10 years of the correct answer, a few, maybe 4 I guessed the ages within a year or two.

I maintain that there are some women who have voices that sound much younger than their age. They are unusual, but they do exist. There is an interesting collection of reasons why men can have voices that sound deeper and older than their years. Hormones probably influence how deep a man’s voice is, and this effect can be confused with the effects of age. There is a common belief that alcohol can have a temporary deepening effect on the vocal cords, giving a deeper tone the day after a big night. I think there’s something in this theory, but I’m not sure how much it is supported by hard evidence. The Uncyclopedia’s recipe for a rich bass voice describes a lifestyle that is not for everyone: “The diet of a bass consists of alcohol, cigarettes, more alcohol, fried meat products, children, ex girlfriends, yet more alcohol and even more cigarettes.” The late Jim Morrisson had a reputation as a hard drinker and had a singing voice well beyond his years. Till Lindemann has a brown-coloured monster of a voice, and a family background in which people hit the bottle hard. Genetics clearly plays a major role in vocal pitch, often displaying a pattern of inheritance. I have known one family in which both the father and sons from infancy onward all had markedly deep voices. An unusually hoarse voice can be caused by a genetic connective tissue or collagen disorder. Inhaling Sulphur Hexafluoride can deepen the voice temporarily, but that’s a pretty silly thing to do. Lots of things besides the ageing process can alter the sound of the voice, so reading age in the voice is not always a simple thing.

A super-recognizer test from The Mythical Show

It’s a bit like the face recognition test that I’ve been hoping to get a chance to do for years now, the Before They Were Famous Test. Like that test this is a test using photos of American celebrities from before they were famous. The only problem with that for me is that I’m Australian and therefore I’m not as familiar with famous people from the United States as most Americans are, and there is also a small but measurable cross-race effect between Australians and Americans. This means that an Aussie has a slight disadvantage in ace recognition tests such as the CFMT that use American faces because in life our brains have been trained to recognize racially and ethnically Australian faces (whatever that might mean). Presumably an American would have a slight disadvantage at a test that uses Aussie faces. I correctly identified six of the famous faces in this video. I almost identified another American celebrity in the test from the eyes but then the wind blew in the other direction and the notion of who it was flew out of my head. Two of the celebrities I never knew in the first place, so they don’t count. I think it’s a pretty good and hard test of facial recognition or face memory. How did you go?

Name These Celebrities Game. Good Mythical Morning Episode 219. YouTube. Published on Jan 18, 2013.

A royal question

Today the world is focused on a new baby in the English royal family, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to ask a question of superrecognizers all over the world. Who do you believe is the biological father of Prince Harry (Henry)? James Hewitt or Prince Charles?

Do you speak German?

If you can understand German and wish to learn more about super-recognition and policing you will probably find this video highly educational. It’s pretty interesting even if you have to guess at the commentary. One bit of English that I did pick out was the statement that “Men are better than machines”. Super-recognizer women can be pretty sharp too. It appears that this video shows a study by Dr Josh Davis of the police super-recognizer Idris Bada using eye-tracker technology. The video also apparently features testing of a super-recognizer named Simone by Dr Ashok Jansari. Thanks to Planetopia (German TV show) and Dr Josh Davis for making this available.

Super-Recognisers on Planetopia (German TV) featuring Dr Josh P Davis…. YouTube Published October 2012.

In a perfect world every doctor would be a super-recognizer

In Western Australia a male infertility patient and his partner were given IVF, but it was later found that he had a genetic disorder that could have been passed on to the baby. I think if the doctor responsible for this omission had been a super-recognizer, it is possible that he or she might have spotted something in this patient’s face or appearance that would have given them the tip that a genetic anomaly might have been an issue. Perhaps one day a version of the Perth face-space project with adult’s faces might be developed to routinely and automatically screen or identify such patients.

Doctor fears IVF used too much. CATHY O’LEARY, MEDICAL EDITOR

The West Australian. July 20, 2013.

Making children’s television even more annoying

The Annoying Orange is now a TV show, “The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange”, which is currently being broadcast on ABC3. It’s another example of a personified object and personified foodstuff in a comedy show. Why do at least some of us love to see food with human characteristics in sculpture or funny TV shows? What’s the surreal appeal of things that behave like people? Are these quirks of popular culture in any way related to personification synaesthesia or the mental modelling of faces, genders and personalities that gives rise to facial recognition?

Some interesting aspects of the Annoying Orange’s TV show are that it highlights two facts about the visual recognition of people – that dentition can be used to visually identify individuals just like faces can, and that there is one aspect of dentition that can in many cases indicate the gender of the person who owns the teeth. In other words, dentition displays sexual dimorphism, and I suspect that while the Annoying Orange has a male voice that matches his male teeth, one of the other fruity characters in his TV show might not have the correct gender of dentition for their voice and character. Do you know which aspect of human dentition sometimes displays sexual dimorphism?

Annoying Orange

Picking the difference between identical twins – the ultimate test of face recognition

“A computer program that can pick out small differences in identical twins’ facial features as they age can distinguish them 90 per cent of the time.”

Lines on the face help pick out the twin who dunnit.  by Sara Reardon New Scientist. 19 July 2013 Magazine issue 2926.

I guess that’s prosopagnosia all sorted

Glass also makes activities that you would not want to do with a smartphone more desirable, such as facial recognition. It would be embarrassing to hold up your smartphone camera to try to identify someone who you’re not sure whether you’ve met before. But an app for doctors called MedRefGlass, developed by Lance Nanek in New York is more subtle. It takes a photo, then uploads it to an online analysis and recognition service called BetaFace. This matches the picture against the faces of previous patients and, if it recognises it, serves up medical information about the person.

It appears that face recognition technology is becoming so useable that I’ve got to wonder if there is any point in looking for a cure or a treatment for prosopagnosia. This type of technology could be more useful for a person with impaired facial recognition ability than it would be for a doctor, and I imagine many people with normal face recognition ability could also find a similar app useful.

The privacy implication of improper access to MedRefGlass by non-doctors is quite alarming, but I guess it’s the same concern that applies to any database of medical records. I guess it’s one way to prompt doctors to actually look at a patient’s medical record during a consultation, and that can only be a good thing.

Campbell, MacGregor Google Glass apps show off what headset can really do. New Scientist. 22 May 2013 Magazine issue 2918, p. 19-20.

Another Perth sculpture depicting a personified object

Whimsical sculpture at Glendalough Train Station, title and artist unknown

Sculpture at Glendalough Railway Station

If anyone knows the details of this whimsical sculpture at Glendalough Railway Station on the Joondalup Line which looks as though it is made of bronze, please let me know. Tourists do like to use it as a seat, which is a bit of fun. I guess the inspiration was the phrase “legs of a chair”.