Monthly Archives: May 2016

Investigating the minds of six supers

Do you have “enhanced generalised visuo-cognitive or socio-emotional processes”, or “enhanced holistic processing”? Personal questions, I know.

I’ve got to admit I enjoy reading research reports about mental processes that work well, sound skills, the right-hand reach of the bell curve in ability, that kind of thing. There are thousands and thousands of journal papers and case studies and reviews of research on illness, disability, morbidity, insanity, disease, abnormality, impairment etc. I know it is all important, but also a bit depressing. Doesn’t it make sense that if you want to figure out how something works, you study exemplars that work really well, or perform one task really well, as well as ones that don’t? It makes sense to me.

Bobak, A. K., Bennetts, R. J., Parris, B. A., Jansari, A., & Bate, S. (2016). An In-depth Cognitive Examination of Individuals with Superior Face Recognition Skills. Cortex. In Press. Available online 15 May 2016.


Dr Kevin Mitchell explains how genetics works with learning in the development of synaesthesia

My blog has two main themes, and one of them is exploring the relationship between super-recognition and synaesthesia. This theme was the main point of the very first posting in this blog, a description of an unusual experience of mine, which opened up a wonderful journey of exploring undiscovered relationships between interesting concepts in neuroscience, psychology and immunology. In my blog I have also asserted that there’s a reason why both synaesthesia and special abilities in reading and literacy-based skills seem to run in my family tree.

If you were wondering how the brain-based characteristics of super-recognition, synaesthesia, precocious reading and superior ability in reading and writing might be connected, I recommend that you have a read of this blog posting from Dr Kevin Mitchell, a researcher in developmental neurogenetics based in Ireland.

Mitchell, Kevin Schema formation in synaesthesia. Wiring the Brain. (blog) May 10th 2016.


Australian super-recognizer suffers from social embarrassment after misidentifying stranger as an acquaintance

The amazing thing is that I had earlier seen the acquaitance at the same event, and I hadn’t noticed a difference in hair colour (different hue, same degree of darkness) between the two, possibly because I focus on faces and voices more than hair.

How did this error happen? Well, the stranger was a sibling of the acquaintance, of the same gender, build, age and hairstyle as the acquaintance, and both were attending the same event, and both have quite distinctive faces with a strong family resemblance in the entire face, not just in a couple of features. The family resemblance brings the siblings’ faces closer in similarity of appearance, while the shared distinctiveness of their faces pushes them away from resembling the faces of any randomly-chosen face of an unrelated person of the same race, age and gender. I would even argue that my misidentification was in fact a correct identification of pretty much the same face that happens to be shared by two people rather than the one individual, as is normally the case with faces, rather like the situation in which you meet by chance the twin of a person you know when you weren’t aware that the person you know has a twin. No, the siblings both now known to me are not twins. Yes, other people have made the same mistake in identification.

Is there anything to be learned from this mistake? I guess it shows that at least in my case, super-recognition is not about having a photographic memory or a memory for every single visual detail, but is more to do with detecting similarity, not just in one or a few visible features, but in an entire pattern made up of features, which as a whole can be distinctive, memorable and identifiable. Is super-recognition a superiority in memory for visual patterns?