Tag Archives: Face Processing

Mind the hype about AI and machine learning

I’m an advocate of the use and hiring of super-recognizers in various work roles and tasks that involve face memory or face recognition, but there are lots of people, some with personal interests and some without, who believe that technology can or will do a better job than humans can. The interesting articles below are probably worth a read if you have an interest in new technology relevant to face processing.

Hooker, Giles Machine learning: What journalists need to know. Sense About Science USA. March 22 2017.

http://www.senseaboutscienceusa.org/machine-learning-journalists-need-know/

Reese, Hope Top 10 AI failures of 2016. TechRepublic. December 2, 2016.

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/top-10-ai-failures-of-2016

 

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Faces get all the attention but we are misled by them?

Eagerly anticipating this counter-intuitive book:

Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions
Alexander Todorov
Hardcover | May 2017

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10923.html

 

Australian study finds evidence suggesting that use of recreational drug ecstasy will damage face perception ability

White, Claire, Edwards, Mark, Brown, John and Bell, Jason The impact of recreational MDMA ‘ecstasy’ use on global form processing. Journal of Psychopharmacology. August 20, 2014

Published online before print August 20, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0269881114546709

http://jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/08/18/0269881114546709.abstract?rss=1

 

Yeang, Lily Ecstasy use affects ability to detect faces, shapes and patterns. ScienceNetwork Western Australia.

http://www.sciencewa.net.au//topics/health-a-medicine/item/3085-ecstasy-use-affects-ability-to-detect-faces-shapes-and-patterns

 

One should bear in mind that this study only used a small number of long-term ecstasy users as subjects (6) and these people also used other drugs, which could have had an influence, and it appears that actual faces or images of faces were not a part of the study, which tested the type of visual processing of which face processing is apparently one example. The full text of the study is behind a paywall, so I’ve not yet read it in full. The study is certainly interesting, as it displays internal consistency in the findings which are also apparently compatible with the findings of other studies.

This study is just another good reason why the testing of visual processing, including abilities such as face memory and global form processing, should ideally be an element of the job recruitment selection process for many jobs. “If global form processing is damaged or deficient then our speed and accuracy in recognizing objects in the environment, and our ability to navigate amongst those objects, will be impaired.” So does that mean that long-term ecstasy users aren’t OK to operate heavy machinery or to drive? I think it is anyone’s guess, and there is no law enforcement or job screening process that I am aware of that is likely to detect people with this kind of visual processing disability, until they have a crash. If you know otherwise, please leave a comment and we we’ll all be the wiser.

Personification everywhere

I’ve been watching a repeat of the series Secrets of the Superbrands, a TV series about marketing of global mega-brands, and the host of the series was visiting a laboratory that creates flavourings and fragrances for super-brands. They spoke about creating flavourings that match the “personality” of the brand, citing a list of emotional attributes that can be embodied “serious”, “playful” etc. How is the different to the varieties of synaesthesia that personify concepts such as numbers and letters, or the varieties of synaesthesia that personify objects such as house plants, fruits and cutlery?

Later a researcher in South London, Prof. Gemma Calvert of the Neurosense Group, at the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences, was shown doing a study with an MRI brain scanner, putting people into the scanner while they were shown photos of the faces of people in their immediate family, and also shown photos of the products, featuring familiar product logos and labelling and packaging design, that they are personally familiar with. Apparently the photos of faces and products triggered similar patterns of brain activation, activiating a “reward centre”, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and also the face recognition areas at the back of the brain. This could be interpreted as evidence that advertising and marketing and brand packaging design produces the effect of personifiying products in ordinary people, so I think it follows that one does not need to be a personifying synaesthete to perceive objects as though they are faces or people. Perhaps personifying synaesthetes are more consciously aware of this effect, or perhaps we are more open to being manipulated in this way, but it shows that we aren’t really that special or different.

New paper about study of face processing in developmental prosopagnosia on oxytocin

The paper is open access, so you don’t need to pay to read the whole thing. Is “face processing” the same thing as “face memory” or “face recognition”? When I’ve got more time I’ll have a good look at this study and see. I have noted that this is a quite small study (10 DPs, 10 controls), so let’s not get too excited about the findings.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945213002086

Two bits of interesting information about the Cambridge Face Memory Test can be found within this paper.  The authors advise that some people with developmental prosopagnosia can achieve a normal score on the CFMT by using “effective compensatory strategies”. I’m curious about how that is done, because I thought the CFMT was pretty much cheat proof. It is also revealed that two new versions of the CFMT were created for this study.

I plan to write more about this paper but right now my garden requires attention. And after that the turquoise coastline lined with fine white sand near where we live will require attention.

You know you’re a super-recognizer when….

……you identify an Australian character actor in a terrific old English horror movie that was made in 1945, filmed when the actress was young and had no Australian accent, and many years before she was most famous in Australia.

Dead of Night – IMDb – cast – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037635/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm#cast

If you have a taste for evil ventriloquists’ dummies, this is one to watch for sure.

Pareidolia in a squashed plastic choc-milk bottle

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=619558368056300&set=a.352718398073633.93806.131153923563416&type=1&theater

Faces, faces everywhere

I’ve been following with great interest the Mindscapes series of articles in New Scientist magazine by Helen Thompson. This week is no less fascinating, maybe even more. It’s about a man whose personality changed following two strokes, paradoxically transforming from criminality to sensitivity, with the strokes also triggering an unstoppable surge of artistic creativity. The artist’s name was Tommy McHugh. He passed away last year. Such artists by virtue of brain transformation are sometimes labelled as acquired savants, and the interesting thing is that they often seem to experience synaesthesia, which raises the question of whether they were always synaesthetes or perhaps synaesthesia is latent in all people, and can be uncovered by changes in brain functioning. What especially interests me about McHugh’s art is the extraordinary focus on faces in his paintings and also sculptures, many of them having such subtle depictions of multiple faces that they could be described as a celebration of pareidolia. Colour is also clearly an aspect of visual experience that McHugh enjoyed experimenting with. I was also struck by McHugh’s description of what it was like to have the first stroke; when he woke up in hospital he saw a tree sprouting numbers. That sounds like just the type of non-psychotic hallucination that Oliver Sacks described in his recent book Hallucinations. It is my understanding that faces, colour and graphemes including numbers are all processed in the fusiform gyrus. The fusiform gyrus is also believed to be involved in at least some types of synaesthesia. I know about this stuff because I have experienced synaesthesia involving faces, graphemes, colours and just about everything that goes on in the fusiform gyrus, and I’m apparently naturally gifted in face memory ability. It looks as though McHugh could also have experienced synaesthesia, judging by the title of one painting “Feeling the Feelings Tasting Emotions”. Yes, I’ve experienced that too. A few years ago I speculated that the famous synaesthete Bauhaus artist Kandinsky showed a focus on the things processed in the fusiform gyrus in one of his paintings (Upward), including a face that could be missed by viewers not gifted with a goodly dose of pareidolia.  This might be what happens when your fusiform gyrus gets off it’s leash, and McHugh insisted that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23523-mindscapes-stroke-turned-excon-into-rhyming-painter.html

http://www.tommymchugh.co.uk/ex_pictures_gallery/index.html

http://www.tommymchugh.co.uk/ex_sculptures_gallery/es_index.html

http://www.tommymchugh.co.uk/index.html

New paper about Williams syndrome and face processing

Cashon, Cara, Ha, Oh-Reyong, DeNicola, Christopher, Mervis, Carolyn Toddlers with Williams Syndrome Process Upright but not Inverted Faces Holistically. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI10.1007/s10803-013-1804-0  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-013-1804-0

It sounds interesting that toddlers with Williams syndrome have “extreme interest in faces from a very young age”, but I just want to know how the performance of these toddlers compares with the abilities of toddlers without Williams syndrome. If interest isn’t reflected in superior performance that might be interesting in itself, I guess, but it would be more interesting if there was a definite relationship between interest and perrformance.

Obama’s face no less fascinating

President Obama has been sworn in for the second time, and he continues to make Washington DC a more attractive place than it would otherwise have been. He is surely too pretty for politics. I never fail to be amazed, whenever I see Obama’s winning smile, how much it looks like Nelson Mandela’s winning smile, so perhaps that proves there is some precedent of good looks in politics. I also can’t help but be drawn to noticing the colours in his facial features, I’m not sure exactly why. People of mixed race like Mr Obama often have aspects of their facial appearance that catch the eye because they violate unconscious expectations about the typical appearance of the races. European features with a dark skin or vice versa will baffle the mind for a moment. Maybe this is why I’m often left with the impression that Obama’s face lacks warm colours despite his share of African melanin. Such a warm smile on a face that has so much gray in it! My visual cortex never quite knows what to make of this famous face. I’m a little suspicious of Obama’s rich brown glow at today’s stirring inauguration speech. I hope I don’t give the impression of being a racist who can’t get over a dark-skinned president. I think it could be the darker colouration around Obama’s mouth and eyes which throws my face processing hardware into a minor spin, because when I look at Obama I can’t help thinking about those Indian people who naturally have “dark rings” around their eyes and dark lips (I once had a strikingly beautiful lady of this type as a co-worker), or the most fascinating Wodaabe people of various countries in Africa. They are a physically beautiful ethnic group with some unusual customs, such as the young men wearing make-up and fancy costumes while courting. Their dark make-up around their eyes and mouth emphasizes the whiteness of their eyes and teeth. I have also seen a photo in which lines down the middle of the faces in pale make-up possibly emphasize the symmetry of the men’s faces. Wodaabe men on display are quite a spectacle, and an unforgettable sight. An evolutionary psychologist might identify the display of facial symmetry and whiteness in eyes and teeth from contrasting natural darker skin colouration and also in cultural displays using dark eye and lip make-up as displays of genetic fitness and health which are adaptive. Americans have a more succinct way of describing this phenomenon: “eye candy”.

Wodaabe ethnic group http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wodaabe&oldid=513464314