Monthly Archives: March 2019

Doppelganger doco on Nine tonight

My thoughts after viewing:

Not the most entertaining or interesting documentary that I’ve seen.

The pairs of “doppelgangers” featured on the show highlight the difference between popular or conventional notions of a doppelganger and the concept as I use it, being a super-recognizer. I didn’t find it clear how the pairs of supposedly same-looking people had been discovered, but I think some pairs discovered each other by accident by living in the same town or doing stand-up comedy  in the same festival and being mistaken for the other, while other pairs used some online face recognition tool to identify their “double” in another part of the world. In the matching methods, therefore, some pairs were matched by people looking at live, dynamic people, while other matches were made by technology looking at still images of faces. Not surprisingly, one pair who were matched with face shots and technology were of very different heights in person and not much of a match for skin colour or general facial resemblance.

All of the pairs on the show were matched in genders, age, skin colour, hair colour, hair texture and even non-biological aspects of appearance such the use of glasses to see with and even similar style of glasses worn. Throughout the show the scientist studying the pairs, using computer technology to compare static images or 3D computer models of the pairs faces, compared the similarity scores given for the matches to those typically found in identical twins, so the unspoken concept of the doppelganger used in the show was for the pairs to look so similar as to be identical, but none of the pairs had similarity scores in the same range as identical twins, overall. As soon as our daughter and I started watching the show we could pick that none were identical twins; there were always differences in faces that could be spotted in an instant that wouldn’t be there in identical twins. This concept of a twin-like doppelganger is entirely different to the kind of uncanny similarity that I occassionally spot between people, which is much more like a family or genetic similarity, as in close relatives or people who have the same genetic disorder that alterns appearance, but often neither of these explaantions are obvious. The doppelganger phenomenon that I spot can go across ages, genders, races and skin tones, but often the personalities are uncannily similar, in the same way that their faces are similar. My concept of “doppelganger” violates social norms, in that it suggests that there are more fundamental similarities between people than sharing the same gender or race or age, which many people might find odd or insulting.

The resemblance that I sometimes see between apparent strangers is in multiple aspects of the face that are remarkably similar in shape and appearance, which can include the hairline, the texture of the hair, beard-borderline pattern, the pattern of the teeth and jaw width, along with things that can’t be recorded in a static photograph, such as the way a person speaks, pronounces particular phonemes in a way that is independent of an accent, the rhythm and speed of the way they speak, unique or distinctive facial expressions and the context in which they are made, which might seen incongruous, and similar gestures or postures, such as the angle at which the head is usually held, and the overall personality. My concept of “doppelgangers” goes way beyond simple visual matching of two similar but non-identical images of faces, which is a task that even a machine could be designed to do. My concept of the doppelganger takes in the whole package of sound, speech, movement and facial appearance, and none of those elements alone are interesting or remarkable, because it is the matching of the same convergence of these types of characteristics in two different people that I notice. I believe this is a reflection of a biological similarity between people, and I think there was a hint of a similar sense of biological similarity at work in the documentary. Part-way through the doco pairs were shown givng saliva samples so that they could be compared for genetic similarities, in a similar process to the popular geneological services that aim to identify distant relatives by DNA. While one pair had remarkably similar racial profiles, it appears that only one (other) pair turned out to be actually related, and they were the pair that I felt I’d have the most trouble mixing up if I met them both, because of their similar overall movement style, voices and personalities and appearance. They were both stand-up comedians, which must count as a peronality similarity. This pair nevertheless did not receive a high score from the computer for facial similarity, but tellingly, they did receive the highest similarity score when rated by a crowd of people. Sadly, the fact that human rating managed to identify an objectively real genetic similarity in one of the pairs appeared to be ignored, in the documentary while the similarity ratings of static images by a computer algorithm was spoken of as an objective fact. Once again, it appears that the common infatuation with and awe of technology is a barrier to expanding scientific knowedge of identfying other people.

Amazing British synaesthete super-perceiver gets to use her super-power to aid science and medicine!

Sorry, I don’t have time to write much about the very interesting and talented super-sniffer Joy Milne. You can read her story in the below linked reports and watch the fascinating BBC documentaries. I very much hope there will be exploration of her as a case study published in the science literature one day, because her special talent is clearly of vital importance.

Clearly I’m not the only syneasthete who’s synaesthesia is associated an extraordinary ability in the sensory/perception ability that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer, as I described in the very first post in this blog.

My super-ability is as a super-recognizer, which has been validated many times over in very high or perfect scores in world-class face recognition tests, and the form of synaesthesia that I (very rarely) experience that is related to this is a form of synaesthesia that had never been described by science before I wrote about it here, way back in 2010. I named it The Strange Phenomenon, but in hindsight a more sensible name might have been a good idea. It involves a cluster of sensory memories of a woman that I barely knew, being triggered by viewing one particular man’s face from a very specific angle, in an experience that was very much like the feeling of spotting a family resemblance in two strangers’ faces, a type of face recognition, but also operated in exactly the same way as some of my many synaesthesia experiences. I believe I was the first person/researcher in the world to publish a theory with supporting evidence (my first-hand accounts of my experiences as a case study) asserting a link between synaesthesia and super-recognition, a hypothesis that I do not believe any “real” researcher in a university has bothered to explore using more conventional forms of research.

Does this paper confirm my prediction made right at the beginning of this blog about a connection between my synaesthesia and my super-recognition?

Lunke, K., & Meier, B. (2018). New insights into mechanisms of enhanced synaesthetic memory: Benefits are synaesthesia-type-specific. PloS one, 13(9), e0203055. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203055