It’s more than just face recognition

You would have to be a fool to think that the abilities of super-recognizers are limited to face memory and face recognition. I strongly suspect that another part of the parcel of ability is the highly sensitive recognition of body language, and by that I mean the total package of facial expressions and head and body movements and probably the associated vocal expressions that is characteristic, but not completely unique, to a person. Of course, these things are intimately linked with the static appearance of the face, and very often when I detect two individuals who have a strikingly similar physical expressive personality they will also have faces that are similar in many ways. My point is, that faces and people are not static objects, and judging super-recognition with tests that use photos probably does not begin to explore the total package of ability.

Not often, but now and then I’m struck and fascinated by the resemblance between the expressiveness of a person I know and some famous person, and also sometimes the similarity can be seen between famous people. One example would be when I was watching the Australian comedian Wil Anderson being interviewed in the One Plus One TV show. In this show he was much more animated than his usual TV appearances, probably because his style of comedy requires a quite cool, straight face, while in the interview he was responding to personal questions and was recounting personal stuff. I was struck by how much his expressive personality or body language seemed the same as the Australian comedy and straight role actor Garry McDonald AO. Do they have similar faces also? I think when you remove the differences in age and hair and facial hair and acting roles, there is a basic facial similarity, but I feel that it goes beyond that. There’s more to it than mere eyes and noses and mouths.

Perhaps you are wondering how researchers could test my proposition that supers are also specifically and separately super at recognizing or interpreting body language, without mixing up face recognition and body language recognition? I guess one could use computer generated images of human silhouettes or outlines as was done in this interesting piece of research about the ability to judge sexual orientation from body language. I’ll bet supers would gun such a test!

 

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On October 1, 2015 at 9:08 am

    All I’d like to say is when I was watching Gruen last night I suddenly realised how much Garry MacDonald and Wil Anderson are so much alike in looks and expressions,when I mentioned it to my husband,after he studied him for awhile he agreed.Then I wondered if they are related

  • C. Wright  On October 1, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Funny thing, I’d never noticed the similarity in expressions between the actors from watching Gruen, I think because Anderson is “in character” on Gruen.

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