Radio stories from the US from last year about prosopagnosia and superrecognizers

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/22/502932399/some-people-are-great-at-recognizing-faces-others-not-so-much

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/24/503279180/researchers-explore-the-struggle-of-recognizing-faces

Artistic talent and super-recognition?

I’ve had my nose in books, as I do, and I’ve read that some great artists had very “vivid” visual memory, which would presumably be a different thing to creativity. Names such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Michelangelo have been cited. So this made me wonder whether I have or once had a level of artistic talent to match my excellent visual memory for faces. I’m not a visual artist. I don’t do visual art as a hobby even. I do enjoy taking photos, but nothing technical or fancy. I do enjoy creating things. I enjoy working with colour. I love going to visual arts events, as you can see from my blog. But I don’t think anyone would identify me as an artist. As a child, I think perhaps people would have. Children are encouraged to express themselves in visual art, and I obliged, as did most kids, and I also enjoyed art enough to do it in my own time at home. I did art as a year 12 subject and enjoyed it but didn’t take it hugely seriously. Perhaps being myopic but never identified as such during my school years limited my ability to draw. Perhaps my ability or interest in art is attributable to my synaesthesia, independent of my face memory ability.

Unlike so many aspects of my childhood, I remember,  in striking detail and vividness, creating art as a young child.  I remember the colours and the names of colours in a large watercolour set given to me as a young child. I remember drawing the intricate wrinkles of my own hand with the other hand at home. I remember the colours of my pencils in grade 1, and the colours of the little dyed wooden shapes we were given to learn about numbers. I remember being laughed at in grade 1 when I showed the class a painting I did at home using perspective. I remember thinking at the time that my classmates were idiots. I remember the simple joy of looking at things, even tiny things or objects of no particular importance to most people. I remember being fascinated and entranced by the structures and colours of found objects such as bird feathers and sea shells. I remember discovering that beach sand is made up of grains that can have striking and vastly different colours: dark brown, bright orange, magenta, white, transparent like glass. As a young lady I got decent marks in art in year 12 and I think my art reflected an ability or a willingness to simply draw what I saw, rather than reproducing some abstract idea of what I thought a tree or a vase should look like. My art teacher said I had ability but failed to develop it, and I think that probably sums the story of my artistic talent.

Are you a super-recogniser? Are you also an artist? Are you a super who is utterly lacking in artistic ability? What do you think? What do you know?

Australia’s Face Verification Service

News that I didn’t have time to write about in November last year. The federal government of Australia plans to create a database of photo-id images. I’m not sure if this is just the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability renamed.

“A Face Identification Service (FIS) is expected to commence in 2017 to help determine the identity of unknown persons. It will be used for investigations of serious offences by specialist officers.”

Couldn’t be less detail or description or explanation in this statement.

https://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/IdentitySecurity/Pages/Face-verification-service.aspx

https://www.itnews.com.au/news/australias-new-facial-verification-system-goes-live-441484

http://www.zdnet.com/article/australian-face-verification-service-starts-with-citizenship-imagery/

 

Leading researchers and prosopagnosics on Australian radio show about the extremes of face memory ability

Malcolm, Lynne What’s in a face? Prosopagnosia. All in the Mind. Radio National. February 19th 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/whats-in-a-face-prosopagnosia/8269742

 

Dean, Diane Prosopagnosia: What it’s like to live with ‘face blindness’. ABC News. February 20th 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-19/what-its-like-to-live-with-face-blindness/8279990

 

There’s a link to the Cambridge Face Memory Test at the webpage for the radio show.

Sad but not surprising that prosopagnosics can be mistakenly perceived as having a personality issue rather than a perception issue.

I’ve got an anecdote that is rather like the opposite of the one shared by Dr Karl in the radio show, in which he came to understand that he had an unusual problem in recognizing fellow-students at university. Just this week I recognized (with no foreknowledge) a student that I once shared a tutorial group with when the student made a very brief appearance as an actor in a television advertisement. Nice! I wish him the best of luck in his acting career. He was working in a series of health promotion ads that consistently feature better acting than that often seen on the TV shows.

In case you are wondering, the music used in the radio show were two hits of the 70’s; that famous tune by Grace Jones and at the end the big hit by Roberta Flack.

The search for an effective intervention for prosopagnosia continues, but at least the knowledge of what is going on must be some help to people who face this challenge.

 

 

Person recognition a crucial point in plotline in another classic movie?

We stayed up late to watch the 1940s classic movie Gaslight the other night. What an amazing story and brilliant acting from Boyer and Bergman! Charles Boyer was not an unusually handsome man, but her certainly knew how to use his eyes, and he also knew how to use his voice.

Was it the detective recognizing a family resemblance between Paula and her late aunt that caught the attention of the detective, or was it that combined with a visual recognition of Serges Bauer?

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1754531097

 

Ever noticed how the faces of couples often look a lot alike?

I notice it all the time, and perhaps this has something to do with being a super-recognizer. It seems to be especially common among couples that include a murderer or a politician. You should consider assortative mating or narcissism before you assume incest.

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/1/4/400.short

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/147470490400200123

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886905003624

 

Kinetic 2017 by Orbital

Visual/musical effects in this video clip are a lot like synaesthesia evoked by music. This kind of effect is found quite often in music clips, especially for electronic music, and this type of synaesthesia seems to be one of the more common types, both in terms of how many people experience it and how often it is experienced by individuals. Contrary to what some researchers seem to believe, synaesthesia is not a constant experience. Specific cognitive or sensory stimuli, either from one’s own thoughts or from the world around evoke synaesthesia, and at least for me, not everything that I experience is a synaesthesia inducer, but nothing evokes synaesthesia like good music or interesting music.

Interesting letter from last year re acquired prosopagnosia and the uncanny valley

Editor’s pick: Excluded from the uncanny valley
From Bob Cockshott

New Scientist. Issue 3100. November 19th 2016. p.60.

https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg23231002-500-1-editors-pick-excluded-from-the-uncanny-valley/

The experience described in the letter seems to suggest that there is more to face recognition than simple memory or faces, or could it be that there are aspects of the perception of faces in particular that make them especially memorable? Faces are easy to personify because they are usually found on people. Perhaps it is the ability to detect the person behind the face that has become amiss in the letter’s author following his stroke, and maybe this ability feeds into face memory? Such a relationship would explain the author’s inability to notice the uncanny valley, and it would also explain why a personifying synaesthete like myself is also a super-recognizer.

P.S.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230970-500-exploring-the-uncanny-valley-why-almosthuman-is-creepy/

I’ve had a read of the interesting article by Laura Spinney that this letter was a comment about, and I think the Perceptual Mismatch Theory of the Uncanny Valley Effect probably offers a more plausible explanation of my a prosopagnosic might be unable to detect the uncanny valley than the competing Category Uncertainty Theory. The article explained the two theories and evidence supporting them. To summarise, the CUT explains the UVE as the result of confusion about what type of thing one is looking at (for example robot or human?), while the PMT explains the UVE as resulting from unease or perceptual confusion when different features or parts of the thing or being viewed have dissimilar levels of human-like appearance (for example the face and skin look realistic but the eyes do not move like human eyes). I think the case of a prosopagnosic not detecting the UVE when people with normal face perception do is support for the PMT theory rather than the other because as far as I know, prosopagnosia does not involve inability to classify faces or bodies as human or non-human, while I believe there is evidence supporting the idea that prosopagnosia can be the result of not being able to perceptually integrate the features of the face as a whole that is recognizable as a unique or distinctive mix of many attributes and features. A non-prosopagnosic person should be able to perceive a face or body as a whole made up of parts, and notice if one or more elements has a level of humanity that does not match other parts, as in the PMT, while a prosopagnosic might not. Of course, research is needed to investigate my armchair speculations.

Thoughts sometimes turn to food with synaesthesia

Whenever I see the colours chocolate brown and forest green together, in any context, that makes me think of the taste and mouth-feel of chocolate with mint brittle or mint cracknel, as exemplified by the Peppermint Crisp bar:

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Peppermint_Crisp&oldid=690240217

Whenever I see the colours forest green and white together, in any context, I think of Kool Mints which I believe were produced in those colours when I was a child. I can even get this effect through grapheme-colour synaesthesia triggered by numbers. For example, the street number of a house that I once lived in evokes the concept of Kool Mints.

Whenever is see one of those cute, rounded, new but retro-styled cars with perfect glossy paint in a brownish tint, it makes me think of flavoured rice-cream or some other flavoured milky desert in the applicable flavour for the colour, such as caramel ricecream, coffee cream desert, chocolate ricecream etc.

http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/worlds-15-ugliest-cars/3/

On the odd occasion when I’m near a helicopter and hear its engine at close range, or hear one operating under a load, that sound makes me think of the uniquely wonderful smell of a steak and onion pie.

Helicopter

I wish, I wish…

I’d love to be reading and writing about fascinating and largely unexplored topics in neuroscience and psychology such as superagers, super-visualisers and aphantasia, but Christmas and all the associated this and that, and the everyday business of parenting in the summer holidays and housekeeping takes up my time.

Interesting to read that aphantasia was apparently first identified by Sir Francis Galton in 1880, even though it has only recently been given the name aphantasia and come to the attention of contemporary researchers. Galton was also one of the earliest researchers to describe various varieties of synaesthesia, before they were all named as such. Galton was one hell of a scientist, back in the days when a man of means could spend his days exploring vast unknown territories of psychology. Is research so different these days? Science is now a bit more open to women researchers, and there’s still much to explore.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541673/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2112820-superagers-with-amazing-memories-have-alzheimers-brain-plaques/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2104221-superagers-with-amazing-memories-have-shrink-resistant-brains/new

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

Zeman, A., Dewar, M., & Della Sala, S. Lives without imagery–Congenital aphantasia. Cortex, 3.
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adam_Zeman/publication/279234629_Lives_without_imagery_-_Congenital_aphantasia/links/573612f208ae9f741b29cd33.pdf