Tag Archives: Ken Nakayama

Recent articles about supers, prosopagnosia, policing and face recognition research

Keefe, Patrick Radden The detectives who never forget a face. New Yorker. August 22nd 2016. Print edition title: Total Recall.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/londons-super-recognizer-police-force

I was glad to read in this substantial and interesting article that face identification was not the only evidence used to convict criminals. And the last couple of sentences in this piece are too true!

 

Montagne, Renee ‘New Yorker’: The Detectives Who Never Forget A Face. NPR. August 17th 2016.

http://www.npr.org/2016/08/17/490314062/new-yorker-the-detectives-who-never-forget-a-face

 

Cambridge Face Memory Test- how long is it?

The original short standard version had 72 items or questions in it and the long version had 102, but I have recently read that new versions have been created, and I don’t know anything about them. There is also a children’s version.

This is a link to the journal paper that introduced the concept of the super-recognizer, and you can read about the use of both original versions of the CFMT in this paper: http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/papers/russell09PBR

Just added an important link to a cognitive test website

I’ve just added a new link to an important online resource to my large and well-considered collection of links at this blog. This online website is TestMyBrain from the Vision Lab at Harvard University. It is a place where researchers offer a group or battery of cognitive tests to the online public free of charge. It is my understanding that your test scores are collected and stored and are available to you to look at, in a “Brain Profile”, but remember to take a screen-shot of your results immediately because this data isn’t stored there permanently. Researchers haven’t just created this website out of the goodness of their hearts, it is my understanding that they use it to collect data for their studies. At the moment there is one face recognition or face memory test included in the collection of tests at TestMyBrain, which could be of value to anyone who suspects that they have a special gift or an impairment in face recognition or face memory. There’s also another tests that looks like it tests face matching ability, which is not quite the same thing as face memory. I haven’t done that test (yet). I consider that the best face memory test available today is the Cambridge Face Memory Test, which comes in a short and also a long version. In the past this test was available to the public through this website, but it isn’t there at the moment. Researchers appear to be reserving this test for use only in their private research studies, which I think is wrong, because people shouldn’t have to find a study to participate in in order to find out whether they have prosopagnosia or are a super-recognizer. Please note that the CFMT is an actual test. It is not just a questionnaire which asks subject whether or not they think they have good or bad face recognition or asks them about their experiences. The only way to find out a person’s real level of ability is to test it, so you need to do a test, and it needs to be a properly designed test. The only people who are likely to design such a test are researchers from a psychology department of some university. A person’s beliefs and impressions can be wildly wrong or uninformed, so questionnaires are pretty much a waste of everyone’s time. Test My Brain is the most reliable place on the internet that I know of for accessing face memory testing free of charge and with your own score freely available to you, so this is an important resource.

Super-recognizers, superrecognisers, superrecognition, super-recognisers, superrecognizers, super-recognition, whatever: a collection of studies, reading, viewing and tests

Published and Unpublished Research About Super-recognizers

Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 2009 Apr;16(2):252-7. http://pbr.psychonomic-journals.org/content/16/2/252.full.pdf   This is the study that launched the concept of the super-recognizer in 2009. One of the researchers who wrote this paper has the opposite neurological condition – prosopagnosia.

Russell, Richard, Yue, Xiaomin, Nakayama, Ken and Tootell, Roger B. H.  Neural differences between developmental prosopagnosics and super-recognizers. Journal of Vision. August 6, 2010 vol. 10 no. 7 article 582 doi: 10.1167/10.7.582 http://www.journalofvision.org/content/10/7/582.short Abstract only available. Prosopagnosics had smaller fusiform face areas than the super-recognizers.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., Evans, R. and Neville, M. (2012) Facial identification from CCTV: investigating predictors of exceptional performance amongst police officers. In: European Association of Psychology and Law 2012, 10-13 Apr 2012, Nicosia, Cyprus. (Unpublished)  http://gala.gre.ac.uk/8462/  This paper was presented at a conference, with authors apparently including Dr Josh Davis and Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville. A lengthy and interesting abstract is openly available but the full paper has restricted access. I have not read full paper. See also below.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K. & Evans, R. (2013). Facial identification from CCTV: Investigating predictors of exceptional face recognition performance amongst police officers. Manuscript submitted for publication. This citation was taken from the list of reference in a 2013 article in The Psychologist.

Richard Russell, Garga Chatterjee, Ken Nakayama Developmental prosopagnosia and super-recognition: No special role for surface reflectance processing.  Neuropsychologia 50 (2012) 334– 340. http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/Russell_etal_2012.pdf

Hoflinger, Laura Hirnforschung – Superhelden aus dem Museum. Der Spiegel. Volume 11 2012 p.129-131. Article in German, an English translation can be downloaded free in PDF form from Superrecognizers website: http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/  This article in a popular German magazine reports on the 2011-2012 study of super-recognizers done by Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at UEL, recruiting study subjects from visitors the the Science museum in London. This study has not yet been published in a science journal, but according to a 2013 article by Jansari and other researchers it is being perpared for publication.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., and Jansari, A. I never forget a face. Psychologist. October 2013. 26(10), 726-729. http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2347 Essential reading on the subject of super-recognizers. Covers the history of the concept of the super-recognizer, use of supers in UK police and summarizes studies of supers including the original 2009 study and studies by Davis and by Jansari which have yet to be published as journal papers. Lots of interesting info from unpublished and published studies, speculation about what causes super-recognition, the prevalence of super-recognition and whether the ability is generalised to higher ability in other types of visual identification, and discussion of the definition of super-recognition and potential for effective and deliberate use of supers in working roles. This article/paper is in an edition of this professional journal titled “The age of the superhuman” which has other material in it about superrecognition and memory superiority.)

Bobak, Anna, Bate, Sarah and Parris, Ben Group differences in the scanning of faces: Insights from ‘super-recognizers’, developmental prosopagnosia and individuals with typical face memory. CogDev 2013: Joint Annual Conference of the BPS Cognitive and Developmental Sections, University of Reading, 4-6 Sept 2013. p.77-78.  http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/pcls/COGDEV2013FINAL.pdf  “The current work investigates the eye-movement patterns during face study and recognition in super-recognizers, individuals with developmental prosopagnosia and matched control participants.” The researchers reportedly found a clear relationship between superiority in face recognition ability (as expressed by membership of either of the three categories of subjects) and looking at the eyes relatively more of the time than looking at the mouth, during learning and also in recognition phases of the task.

Russell, Richard ???? An article about super-recognizers by Caroline Williams published in 2012 in New Scientist magazine claimed that Russell and his research team have done an fMRI study of super-recognizers and the paper was due for publication in late 2012. Assistant Prof. Russell was quoted as saying that supers “seem to be using their brains somewhat differently”. Can’t wait to read this paper.

“Sparrow 2010” ????? This study is mentioned in a discussion of super-recognizers at the web page of the face-recognition research team at the University of East London “The first research in the UK to address this phenomenon was undertaken as part of an MSc project at UEL producing very promising corroborative findings (Sparrow, 2010). ” http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/face-recognition/ I have not been able to find publication details of this study and I think it remains unpublished. A researcher by the name S. S. Sparrow has had other papers published in the area of autism and face perception. Dr Ashok Jansari was quoted in a 2013 article in The Psychologist in a piece about super-recognizer Moira Jones in the Digest section that “I set up an MSc project to look for super-recognisers in 2010 and have been exploring the phenomenon ever since.”

Tests Which Can be Used to Identify Super-recognizers

Duchaine, Brad & Nakayama, Ken The Cambridge Face Memory Test: Results for neurologically intact individuals and an investigation of its validity using inverted face stimuli and prosopagnosic participantsNeuropsychologia 44 (2006) 576–585. http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/137neuropsychologiaDuchaine2006.pdf  This is the study that validated the test of face memory that has become the “gold standard”, and which is used to identify super-recognizers

Are you ready to find out if you may be a super recogniser? https://greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9ZVm6G3McDma37D  A three-minute test from Dr Josh Davis, the University of Greenwich and Qualtrics.

Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. 60 Minutes. CBS News. March 18, 2012.http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402555n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing

Television News and Current Affairs Reports About Super-recognizers and Face Recognition

London police using crime-fighting “super recognizers” official. Reporter Mark Phillips. CBS News. Dailymotion. Publication date November 12th 2013. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x173o5e_london-police-using-crime-fighting-super-recognizers_news   An American report on the use of super-recognizers in London policing. Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville explains how inadequate computer facial recognition was found to be compared with results from police supers. PC Gary Collins and researcher Dr Josh Davis are also interviewed, and super-recognizer police doing identification work are shown. It is revealed that tests are being developed for recruiting super-recognizers into a police force in London.

Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. 60 Minutes. CBS News. March 18, 2012.http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402555n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing

Comments on: Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. http://www.cbsnews.com/8601-504803_162-57399111.html?assetTypeId=41&blogId=10391709&tag=postComments;commentWrapper

Face Blindness. Reporter – Lesley Stahl, Producer – Shari Finkelstein, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Broadcast March 18th 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57399118/face-blindness-when-everyone-is-a-stranger/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

Super-recognisers (The One Show, BBC 1 Scotland): Dr Josh P Davis….  YouTube. Broadcast on BBC1 on 9th April 2013. Uploaded by Dr Josh P. Davis, copyright owned by BBC1 Scotland. http://youtu.be/PuPfQ8UZTGQ In this clip from The One Show Dr Michael Mosley interviews super-recognizer policeman Gary Collins and super-recognition researcher Dr Josh Davis.

Police super-recognisers. reporter Sharon Thomas London Tonight. London Regional News. ITV. Tue Feb 28 2012  http://www.itnsource.com/en/jp/shotlist/ITN/2012/02/28/T28021245/?v=0&a=1 See it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/7QA4ih5u-vk PC Gary Collins from the Metropolitan Police and researcher Dr Josh Davis were interviewed.

Super-Recognisers on Planetopia (German TV) featuring Dr Josh P Davis…. YouTube Published October 2012.
http://youtu.be/F3NhZUTWPno  Also published here:  http://youtu.be/7KxqnaTZCOo An interesting video of a special report about super-recognizers on a German TV show in German.

Dr Josh P. Davis http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3rErlc6ayyZb1ROLvPQPtA?feature=watch YouTube channel of this researcher.

Radio Stories About Super-recognizers

Hammond, Claudia Super recognizers. BBC Radio 4. first broadcast 25 Jan 2010 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00q3fbv

Super-recognizer Researchers’ Web Pages and Websites

Superrecognizers. http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/ A website of Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at the University of East London

Face-Recognition Research Team, UEL School of Psychology http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/face-recognition/ Dr Jansari is the team leader

http://www.joshpdavis.org.uk/#!news/mainPage news page at website of Dr Josh P. Davis of the University of Greenwich

Social Perception Lab, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/index.html  Superrecognition authority and prosopagnosia researcher Assoc. Prof. Brad Duchaine is the PI at this lab.

Richard Russell http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/index.html  Website of face perception researcher Richard Russell Assistant Professor of Psychology Gettysburg College Psychology Department

Academic Book Chapter About Super-recognizers Scheduled for publication in 2014:

Valentine, T., & Davis, J.P. (Editors). Forensic Facial Identification. Wiley Blackwell.  (Authors will be Dr Josh P Davis from University of Greenwich and Professor Tim Valentine from Goldsmiths, University of London)

Popular non-fiction book apparently written by a British super-recognizer police officer:

Officer “A” The Crime Factory: The Shocking True Story of a Front-Line CID Detective. Mainstream Publishing, 5 April 2012. This book was published under a nom de plume or pen name, but some sources give Andy Jennings as the author’s name. This is a quite sensationalist account of a now-retired UK police undercover detective’s career experiences while working in Australia for the WA Police Force (WAPOL). This book includes many descriptions of blunders and inadequacies of WAPOL. There has been debate among readers about how much of this book is fiction. A passage on page 12 suggests that the author is a super-recognizer and there is discussion on page 53 of what it is like to have a “photographic memory”. I have written about this book here. 

Reddit discussion about a super-recognizer and a prosopagnosic who are in a relationship

MyNameIs BrookeToo I am a faceblind girl dating a super-recognizer. AUsA. Reddit. Discussion started March 25th 2012. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/rcgh8/i_am_a_faceblind_girl_dating_a_superrecognizer/  A fascinating and long discussion in which a prosopagnosic lady using the name MyNameIs BrookeToo and her super-recognizer boyfriend using the name Shandog answer many questions.

Science Journal, Magazine, Science News and Press Articles About Super-recognizers

Rutherford, Pam Never forgetting a face. BBC News. January 25th 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8474827.stm

Grimston, Jack Eagle-Eye of the Yard can spot rioters by their ears.  Sunday Times, The, 20.11.2011, p12,13-12,13, 1; Language: EN Section: News Edition: 01. EBSCOhost Accession number 7EH53940939 http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/papers/Supers.pdf  A substantial article but not easy to obtain in full text

Hoflinger, Laura Hirnforschung – Superhelden aus dem Museum. Der Spiegel. Volume 11 2012 p.129-131. Article in German, an English translation can be downloaded free in PDF form from Superrecognizers website: http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/ This article in a popular German magazine reports on the 2011-2012 study of super-recognizers done by Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at UEL, a study which to my knowledge has not yet been published in a science journal.)

Williams, Caroline Face savers. New Scientist. 15 September 2012 no.2882 pages 36-39.   online title: ‘Super-recognisers’ have amazing memory for faces. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528821.500-superrecognisers-have-amazing-memory-for-faces.html Worth a read. Caroline Williams has also written an article about prosopagnosia for this magazine. I have found one letter by Maryse Palemans in response to the above article, published in October 2012 in the magazine, in which Maryse recounted how a super-recognizer father surprised a policeman met 20 years earlier by recognizing him, an amusing reversal of the usual theme of police super-recognizers identifying members of the public. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628861.200-ello-ello-ello.html

How to recognise the super-recognisers. British Psychological Society. August 30th 2012. http://www.bps.org.uk/news/how-recognise-super-recognisers

(a short discussion of research by Davis, Lander and Evans.)

Davis, J.P. Super-recognisers in the police: Exceptional at face recognition, highly meticulous or viewing the right CCTV footage at the wrong time – for the criminal? University of Kent Research Seminar Series. February 2013.    http://media.wix.com/ugd/81aef3_e5f728b80964b0a3e805181574b2b248.pdf

(an abstract of a seminar which apparently was not presented)

Storr, Will Human image banks: meet the Met’s ‘Super recognisers’. Telegraph. March 26th 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9942759/Human-image-banks-meet-the-Mets-Super-recognisers.html

(A substantial article about the work of police super-recognizer Idris Bada and other police supers. DCI Mick Neville interviewed. PC Martin Lotriet also identified as a police super. Dr Josh Davis interviewed, and his surname misspelt.)

‘Super recognisers’ turn gaze on Carnival. Metropolitan Police: Total Policing. August 21st 2013.  http://content.met.police.uk/News/Super-recognisers-turn-gaze-on-Carnival/1400019306715/1257246745756

(A brief article in a police publication. Number of identified supers in the Metropolitan Police given as 180. Includes the interesting claim that super police officers can remember not only faces but also names, birth dates and other details of offenders, which highlights the fact that memory is based in the initial encoding of information, which may be limited or detailed.)

Gaidos, Susan Familiar faces. Science News.  Web edition August 23rd 2013, Print edition September 7th 2013. Volume 184 Number 5 p.16. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/352687/description/Familiar_faces

(Science News is the “Magazine of the Society for Science & the Public”. A substantial article. Julian Lim, Carrie Shanafelt and Ajay Jansari (brother of super-recognizer researcher Dr Ashok Jansari) identified as super-recognizers. Researchers interviewed include Bradley Duchaine, Ashok Jansari, Irving Biederman, Nancy Kanwisher, Josh P. Davis and Joe DeGutis. Interesting info about possible directions of future research.)

Taylor, Matthew Police ‘super recognisers’ to keep watch over Notting Hill carnival. Guardian. August 24th 2013.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/23/police-super-recognisers-notting-hill-carnival

(An article about plans for the huge upcoming Notting Hill Carnival in England, including the planned first ever significant use of (police) super-recognizers to monitor a live event. Chief Superintendent Mick Johnson from the Metropolitan Police interviewed. Police super Patrick O’Riordan interviewed.)

Perry, Susan ‘Super recognizers’: People who never forget a face. MinnPost. August 29th 2013.  http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2013/08/super-recognizers-people-who-never-forget-face

(Science News article by Gaidos summarized. Use of supers by UK police discussed. Research by Dr Isabel Gauthier on use of face recognition brain areas for specialist visual ID of classes of objects is discussed.)

Buckland, Danny Police officers’ superhuman ability to recognise faces is being used to fight crime. Express. September 1st 2013.  http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/426014/Police-officers-superhuman-ability-to-recognise-faces-is-being-used-to-fight-crime

(includes photo of Metropolitan Police super-recognizers Paul Hyland, Kieran Grant and Patrick O’Riordan. The use of supers by The Met during the Notting Hill Carnival described. Police supers and super-recognition researcher Dr Ashok Jansari interviewed and asserts the superiority of humans over technology in face recognition.)

Cheng, Maria, Keaten, Jamey, Associated Press Don’t I know you? If London police’s super recognizers have met you before, the answer is yes. Canada.com September 27th 2013.  http://www.canada.com/health/Dont+know+London+polices+super+recognizers+have+before+answer/8965531/story.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+canwest%2FF67+(canada.com+Body+and+Health)

(“Associated Press Writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Paris.” Police super-recognizer Paul Hyland discussed. Use of Met police supers at Notting Hill Carnival described. Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville gives figures for achievements of police super-recognizers versus a facial recognition program showing vast inferiority of the technology. Opinions from legal experts about use of supers as expert witnesses is recounted, critical view from privacy advocate recounted, and use of supers in obtaining search warrants discussed. Major super-recognition researchers interviewed. Dr Josh Davis discusses plans for more research and a new test. Dr Brad Duchaine claims supers are superior to technology.)

AP/Cheng, Maria London Police Use Super Recognizers to Fight Crime. Time. September 27th 2013.  http://world.time.com/2013/09/27/london-police-use-super-recognizers-to-fight-crime/#ixzz2hkafR9rC

(same as above)

Cheng, Maria / AP Super Recognizers Used By London Police To Fight Crime. Huffington Post. September 27th 2013.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/27/super-recognizers_n_4002839.html

(same as above)

Jaslow, Ryan London police using 200 super-recognizers: What makes them “super”?. CBS News. September 27th 2013.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57605067/london-police-using-200-super-recognizers-what-makes-them-super/

(Superrecognition researcher Prof. Richard Russell interviewed, estimates super-recognizers are 1 in 1,000.)

Camber, Rebecca The man who NEVER forgets the face: How Scotland Yard’s elite squad of 200 ‘super recognisers’ can spot a suspect in a crowd. MailOnline. Daily Mail. September 27th 2013.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435043/Scotland-Yards-elite-squad-200-super-recognisers-forget-face.html#ixzz2gFQzxiVF

(similar to the AP article but shorter and with interesting photos.)

AP London police use super recognizers to fight crime. Times of India. September 28th 2013.  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/London-police-use-super-recognizers-to-fight-crime/articleshow/23191190.cms

(Same article as one by Cheng, Keaten and AP)

Cheng, Maria, Associated Press Super recognisers help Scotland Yard fight crime. National. September 27th 2013.  http://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/super-recognisers-help-scotland-yard-fight-crime

(similar to other articles)

AP London police use super recognisers to fight crime. Gulf News. September 27th 2013.  http://gulfnews.com/news/world/london-police-use-super-recognisers-to-fight-crime-1.1236204

(similar to other articles)

Cheng, Maria, Associated Press Don’t I know you? London police squad of elite super recognizers a new concept. Windsor Star. September 28th 2013.  http://www.windsorstar.com/know+London+police+squad+elite+super+recognizers+concept/8971850/story.html

(appears to be an edited version of AP story)

McFarland, Sam Digest: We meet people who have or research ‘super’ abilities. Psychologist. Volume 26 Part 10 October 2013. p.716-717.

http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2345

(Interesting brief piece of autobiographical writing by super-recognizer Moira Jones about her ability and how it has been useful in her past work in retail. Also comments by researcher Dr Ashok Jansari summarizing the span of his research on supers which includes recruiting Jones as a study subject. Also in the same issue a substantial article about super-recognizers. )

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., and Jansari, A. I never forget a face. Psychologist. October 2013. 26(10), 726-729. http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2347

(Essential reading on the subject of super-recognizers. Covers the history of the concept of the super-recognizer, use of supers in UK police and summarizes studies of supers including the original 2009 study and studies by Davis and by Jansari which have yet to be published as journal papers. Lots of interesting info from unpublished and published studies, speculation about what causes super-recognition, the prevalence of super-recognition and whether the ability is generalised to higher ability in other types of visual identification, and discussion of the definition of super-recognition and potential for effective and deliberate use of supers in working roles. This article/paper is in an edition of this professional journal titled “The age of the superhuman” which has other material in it about superrecognition and memory superiority.)

Bremer, Bruce Some London police are “super-recognizers”. Law Enforcement Today. October 5th 2013. http://lawenforcementtoday.com/2013/10/05/some-london-police-are-%E2%80%9Csuper-recognizers%E2%80%9D/

(A brief article from a US police publication confirming that the use of supers by the police force in London is currently unique in the world. Also see the detailed clarifying comment by Mick Neville.)

Jarrett, Christian Day 2 of Digest super Week: meet a super-recogniser. BPS Research Digest. October 8th 2013.  http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/day-2-of-digest-super-week-meet-super.html

(appears to be the same as the piece in The Psychologist by Sam McFarland about Moira Jones)

If you know of any substantial item that should be in this list but isn’t, please let me know in a comment.

New journal paper about super-recognizers and developmental prosopagnosics

Developmental prosopagnosia and super-recognition: No special role for surface
reflectance processing.
Richard Russell, Garga Chatterjee, Ken Nakayama
Neuropsychologia 50 (2012) 334– 340
http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/Russell_etal_2012.pdf

 

Memory enthusiasts discuss improving performance on the CFMT – a tip for prosopagnosia researchers?

I’ve just happened across a very short but interesting discussion thread at an online forum for people who are interested in memory techniques. I guess this might include people who take part in formal memory competitions and who employ memory techniques such as the Method of Loci. Two members have discussed the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT). They both claim to have attained very good scores (like myself) and both employed non-cheating memory strategies to at least some degree in their attempts at the test. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. The strategy that they both apparently independently hit upon, the idea of giving imaginary names to the faces that had to be memorized could possibly be seen as a technique of adding personification or personality traits to their memories of the faces of complete stranges with neutral expressions. One of the memory enthusiasts gave the faces silly made-up names, which I would assume would be references to imagined personality characteristics, ideas that are possibly based on impressionistic, almost instant emotional interpretations of the appearance of the faces. If this is the technique used by these memory enthusiasts that would be interesting, because that is pretty much what I naturally did when I first did that test, but without giving names ot the faces, and I got a perfect score on the test. I believe this has something to do with the ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia (OLP) that I have experienced for as long as I can remember.

My guess is that these memory enthusiasts employed this type of strategy because it has some elements in common with the ancient and proven method of loci memory technique. In this technique memory performance in memorizing a large set of meaningless data is enhanced by converting the information to be memorized into a more emotionally striking or interesting visual format and these elements to be memorized are then mentally placed into a previously memorized visual-spatial context. A part of this strategy involves converting the emotionally neutral and monotonous information to be rememberd into a more memorable format. I would argue that personifiying a large set of bland faces of strangers by ascribing imaginary names or personality traits to each of them is doing pretty much the same thing. I have argued in a previous post in this blog that the technique successfully and consciously employed by a prosopagnosic that enhanced his performance in the CFMT in a formal study is similar to my spontaneously-employed personification of the faces when I did the same test. This reportedly face-blind study subject, who was given the anonymous name of M57, figured out his own method of adding an emotional dimension to the faces to be memorized, after having done a number of face recognition tests previously. Is this an example of a super-recognizer with OLP, a prosopagnosic and two memory buffs independently employing similar techiques to enhance performance on the same test? That would be interesting.

Mnemotechnics.org   Cambridge Face Memory Test   http://mnemotechnics.org/x/forums/cambridge-face-memory-test-740.html

Reflections on The Strange Phenomenon, how I gunned the CFMT, letter personification in advertising and clue to a possible cure for some cases of prosopagnosia after reading an old journal paper.   https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/reflections-on-the-strange-phenomenon-gunning-the-cfmt-letter-personification-in-advertising-and-clue-to-a-possible-cure-for-some-cases-of-prosopagnosia-after-reading-an-old-journal-paper/

Duchaine, Brad & Nakayama, Ken The Cambridge Face Memory Test: Results for neurologically intact individuals and an investigation of its validity using inverted face stimuli and prosopagnosic participants. Neuropsychologia 44 (2006) 576–585. http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/137neuropsychologiaDuchaine2006.pdf

Reflections on The Strange Phenomenon, how I gunned the CFMT, letter personification in advertising and clue to a possible cure for some cases of prosopagnosia after reading an old journal paper

(this article added to on August 10th 2011)

I thought that I’d read pretty much everything that there was available to read  about face recognition testing, but I had overlooked the 2006 journal paper by Duchaine and Nakayama published in the journal Neuropsychologia which validated the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT). This short paper has been well worth a look. I’ve found quite a few things in this paper that have provoked much thought and added to my understanding of The Strange Phenomenon, including some most fascinating information about one of the study subjects, a male who was supposedly a prosopagnosic but who employed an interesting trick that enabled him to get a score in the normal range in the CFMT. The Strange Phenomenon is a type of synesthesia that involves face recognition which I have experienced in the past. I have fully described this phenomenon in the first posting in this blog “A Most Peculiar Experience”.

In the introduction to the paper there is a reminder of why the CFMT is such a good test of an ability as it is used in everyday life, and a reminder of the processes that give rise to face recognition. “Because the test will measure face memory, performance on the test will depend on both perceptual mechanisms and memory.” “However, face memory, not face perception, is the ability that determines our success in identity recognition in everyday life, and so it is especially important to measure it.” So, memory is an essential element of this ability. Given that there is a general belief that synaesthesia is somehow linked with superior memory, we perhaps should not be surprised to find a connection between synaesthesia and superior face memory ability, as is measured in with CFMT. The fact that memory is an element of face recognition perhaps explains the clunky, abrupt nature of The Strange Phenomenon. Like other types of synaesthesia, there is a definite moment when it “kicks in”, and you can never be sure exactly when it will “kick in” till it does, even though one knows what conditions trigger it. Memory works like this too. Memories can be retrieved in an unpredictable, triggered, abrupt and uncontrollable or hard-to-control process. Similarities between some types of synaesthesia, memory and The Strange Phenomenon are obvious. I believe that these are all “threshold phenomena”.

On page 582 I’ve discovered a detail which was discovered in the study that is written up in this paper which possibly helps to explain one of the requisite characteristics of the trigger of The Strange Phenomenon. The Strange Phenomenon violates what is possibly a universal feature of face recognition that is found in prosopagnosics, normal controls viewing upright faces and also normal controls viewing inverted faces. This feature is a slightly better performance at identifying faces from front views compared to side views. In contrast, The Strange Phenomenon generally requires a side view (from around a 45 degree angle) as the trigger for the automatic recognition of the apparent facial similarity between John* and Jean*. I take this as evidence pointing towards probable reasons why The Strange Phenomenon requires a side view – that it is the only view in which the two adults of different genders, John and Jean, look similar, and/or that a side view is the only view that gives an integrated visual understanding of John’s, (and maybe Jean’s), distinctive flat face. It appears a general superiority of a 45 degree view of faces for the purpose of recognition is not the reason why The Strange Phenomenon requires a view from this angle. I find this surprising, but I can still think of a possible reason why a full-face view is best for face recognition – because it is the view that gives the greatest “feel” of social interaction, and a “feeling” of social interaction enhances or gives rise to face recognition. Which brings me to the most interesting find in this paper…..

Reading through the paper one gets the impression that the CFMT is a better test of real-life face recognition ability than the older tests that it is compared to. In general the CFMT appears to prevent prosopagnosics from getting a score that falsely indicates normal ability by using strategies that don’t involve actual face recognition, but out of the eight prosopagnosics in the study there is still the problem that two prosopagnosics, (given the anonymous names of F41 and M57 in this study, the letter denoting gender and the number denoting age at time of testing) scored within two standard deviations of the mean, which is judged to be within the normal range. F41’s score was pretty low, but prosopagnosic M57’s score really required an explanation because it was only just below the mean score for the normal control subjects. How did M57 do it? M57 was asked. His cool trick was a deliberate strategy, but not really a cheat. He explained that he “…intentionally attempted to “lust” after the faces rather than simply memorize them.” This is rather amusing considering that M57 is a male and all of the faces in the CFMT are of men’s faces. This strategy wasn’t just some wild idea that M57 dreamed up – he was a veteran of face recognition testing, and M57 was testing a theory that he had formulated about his own performance in such tests. His theory is apparently supported by evidence that attractive faces are better remembered than unattractive faces. M57’s deliberate attempts to add emotional content to the plain colourless pictures of faces during the encoding/memorizing of these images appears to have been very effective. I guess in employing this strategy he was recruiting parts of the brain to the task that wouldn’t have otherwise been drawn into the job of memorizing faces. Was M57 using a simple type of emotional arousal to boost the connectivity of his brain during this testing? Did this temporary enhancement of brain connectivity bridge his impoverished connections between brain regions that normally make face recognition difficult for him by isolating the various parts of the brain that need to work together during successful face recognition? This theory sounds like the opposite of synaesthesia, and there is evidence that many agnosias, including some but not all cases of prosopagnosia, are caused by under-connected brains. It is a well-accepted observation that there is an association between emotion and synaesthesia. Music is an experience that appears to be a particularly powerful trigger for both emotions and synaesthesia. According to what I’ve read there appears to be evidence that there are generally two different types of problem that give rise to prosopagnosia – some prosopagnosics simply have damage to a specific part of the brain that “does” face recognition (the fusiform face area I guess), while for possibly most prosopagnosics the problem lies in poor connections between different parts of the brain, resulting in faces being recognized unconsciously, with clues that can be detected by researchers, but the person is not conscious of the recognition because their under-connected brain fails to relay this information to the parts of the brain that “do” conscious thought.

When I read about M57’s effective strategy I was fascinated because it seems to have a lot in common with my own naturally-employed strategy for success in the CFMT, in which I have gotten perfect scores more than once. When I did the CFMT test I would very quickly imagine a character or personality based on the appearance of the face when I encoded the face, dreaming up a different character for each face. I would wildly interpret individual features of the face, and the overall mood and character of the face. Plumpness in the cheeks interpreted as evidence of an impulsive character. Large eyes with an anxious-looking mouth was taken as evidence of a sensitive and intellectual personality. I knew this was fanciful, but it worked very effectively. Using this personification strategy made it easy to tell the difference between faces that I had previously seen and newly-presented faces, because I felt that I “knew” some of the people pictured while others were still strangers to me. There is a simple explanation of why the use of personification in the encoding the memories of faces/personalities is such an easy and natural process for me. Ordinal linguistic personification (OLP) is one of the many different types of synaesthesia that I have. OLP is a type of synaesthesia in which individual items in ordered sequences such as letters, numbers or days of the week are associated with individual personalities. Like grapheme->colour synaesthesia it has its origins in early childhood and the associations are pretty much fixed for life.

Perhaps you are thinking that ordinal linguistic personification sounds like pretty crazy stuff that seems so irrational that it surely couldn’t be useful and couldn’t be associated with useful abilities. I would argue that a brain that can “do” OLP is a brain that is richly connected to cultural, personal and linguistic associations by virtue of the fact that it is physically very inter-connected. It is possibly a brain that has a natural talent for learning languages and learning to read (two talents that are found in my family). Do you believe that the letters of the alphabet are nothing more than graphemes (basic written language symbols) that are associated with phonemes (a most basic unit of sound in a language)? Is your thinking really as limited as that? The letters of the alphabet and other graphemes such as numbers, Oriental characters and punctuation marks can have many types of properties. They clearly have shapes and sounds. In some minds they can also have colours, genders, ages, personalities and physical orientations (facing left, right or to the front). Some graphemes resemble faces, and many of them look like stick figures in different poses, poses which can be highly expressive of emotion or personality. Can’t you see the letter E’s big smile as he faces toward the right? Don’t you think the letters K and Y look so happy waving their arms about? The letter H is a bit of a frump with her square body and legs that are rather far apart, wouldn’t you say? I’ve always thought Mr S was a bit of a snake, while letter M and number 1 stand straight and resolute. Have you ever seen the 1940s cult classic movie The Curse of the Cat People? It isn’t as bad as the title suggests, in fact it could be described as a perceptive exploration of hidden and forgotten aspects of an introverted childhood, a world of imaginary friends and playing among nature and personification synaesthesia. When the ghostly Irena teaches young Amy how to write the numbers 1 and 2, she personifies them by making reference to the resemblance of the graphemes’ shapes to human figures “One is like a tall princess. A princess? Of course! And two is the prince who kneels before her on one knee. Yes? Yes! The prince! That’s right. This is more fun than just numbers. Of course!” (Irena hugs Amy). Personification is a funny little brain trick that makes learning how to write and recognize graphemes more fun, and it also appears to be an aid to learning how to recognize faces.

Letters of the alphabet can have associations with the names of people who have a first name that begins with that letter. In my own ordinal linguistic personification all of the letters that are the first letter of a close family member’s name have genders and personalities that are the same or similar to the family member. The first letter of my own name is pretty much a reflection of my own (possibly inaccurate) self-concept when I was a young girl. Letters of the alphabet can also have associations with words that start with that letter, and the phonemes that are linked with graphemes can have sound symbolism. In my OLP the letter M is a motherly type of personality. She is a “Mum’s lipstick” type of colour. I don’t think there is yet any scientific consensus as to why the word for “mother” has a “ma” or “mam” sound  in so many different languages, but sound symbolism is often offered as an explanation. A recent article about sound symbolism in language in New Scientist magazine explicitly linked sound symbolism with synaesthesia and the “bouba-kiki effect”. Sound symbolism in language is possibly a universal and innate feature of human psychology. Research indicates that sound symbolism patterns are recognised by young children and adults across cultures, but more research needs to be done to confirm this. I do not think it is a stretch to propose that there is a connection between my mother-personality OLP synaesthesia for the letter M and a universal sound symbolism in language that is somehow based on synaesthesia.

In my mind the letters K, R and Y all have vital, positive, outgoing, young adult, powerful personifications (two male and one female) and have grapheme->colour associations with bright colours. I believe this is because these letters have physical shapes that resemble human stick figures in dynamic poses, with K and R standing with legs apart and K with her arms raised, as are the letter Y’s arms. Does the letter R have one hand on one hip? He certainly has tickets on himself, don’t you think? In my mind the letter Y is a man in his prime of life who has a cheerful personality and is associated with an obnoxiously bright yellow colour. I find it easy to imagine him as an Indian Bhangra dancer with his arms joyously raised to the skies, leaping about in a manful manner. Contrast these dynamic letters with the letter C. It seems to be no coincidence that the words “curled” and “caring” both start with letter C, with all of the associated connotations of passivity, gentleness and introversion. In my mind the letter C is a quiet, caring and young female personality and the associated colour is a pale mauvey-pink.

Do you still believe that letters are nothing more than graphemes which are associated with phonemes? There has got to be something seriously wrong with your brain if you do! Tell me, which letters out of C, K, R and Y would you consider hiring to help you to move house, if they were people? I’d only hire the letter C to help pack fragile items and comfort the pets, and I’d be wary of the letter Y being distracted by chatter and dancing and not getting on with the work. I believe it is no coincidence that the letter R is the only letter that I have seen personified in an advertising logo for a removalist company’s logo (see links below). I have also seen some most dynamic letters K and Y personified in advertising items such as a movie poster and a company logo. Ordinal-linguistic personification synaesthesia cannot be dismissed as crazy stuff. I believe all capable advertising professionals must have a good working understanding of personification and other types of synaesthesia, either conscious or unconscious, as explicit synaesthetes or as “normal people” with well-connected minds and well-developed cultural-sensory sensitivities. I also believe that personification is the trick that was used by myself (a mutliple synaesthete who naturally personifies letters)  and possibly also by the male prosopagnosic study subject M57 to enhance our performances in the CFMT to unexpected levels (M57 into the normal range and me into the super-recognizer range). I believe such personification recruits parts of the brain that are normally used for social functioning to the simple task of face recognition, and this somehow enhances performance.

I believe that another personality-related type of synaesthesia can give some clues about solving the mystery of The Strange Phenomenon. I’ve recently been reading some personal first-hand accounts of coloured personality synaesthesias – synaesthesia experiences which can look like coloured “auras” around people’s faces or bodies. I have also read about one very interesting case of coloured facial expression synaesthesia in chapter three of the book The Tell-Tale Brain by V. S. Ramachandran. I find this stuff most interesting for many reasons. We are reminded that the trigger or stimuli or “inducer” in this type of synaesthesia does not fit the usual stereotypes of synaesthesia, because the trigger is not simple and is not purely sensory, but is highly psychological and highly social and highly personal. Clearly non-sensory parts of the brain are involved. The trigger is the expressed personality of another person, or to be completely correct, the synaesthete’s perception of the personality of another person. First-hand accounts of coloured personality synaesthesia make it clear that it is the synaesthete’s beliefs about the personalities of others that are the triggers. For example, some coloured personality synaesthetes report that they experience simple correspondences between personality traits and single colours in people that they don’t know very well, but for people whom they know very well no colours are experienced. It has been theorized that the lack of colouration of personalities that are well known is the result of over-complexity or too much knowledge of a person’s personality. When we first meet a person, only the most dominant or obvious personality traits might be clearly perceived, while the many-faceted personality of a person who is well-known might look like a mess of colours if all the personality traits have a colour, or perhaps the colours might cancel each other out to nothing. What does this have to do with The Strange Phenomenon? I think this stuff serves as a reminder that there could be more to this phenomenon than simple visual (face) processing and memory with synaesthesia connections, in the trigger or in the experience triggered. I’m sure that the fusiform face area is involved in this phenomenon, but I can only guess what other parts of my brain might be involved with this trick. Coloured personality synaesthesia reminds us that things as complex and as social as personality traits and perceptions of personality traits can be involved with synaesthesia. In The Strange Phenomenon it most certainly felt to me as though the experience triggered was not just a picture of Jean’s face, but was a memory of Jean’s embodied and voiced personality. I still do not understand why this near-stranger, this face-in-the-crowd should be so memorable to me. I have many theories, but this mystery is unlikely to ever be solved. Coloured personality synaesthesia is also a reminder of how subjective synaesthesia can be. Whether or not another person is coloured can depend on how well known they are to the synaesthete. The synaesthete’s social understanding can clearly have a big influence upon this type of synaesthesia. It is perfectly possible that my perceptions of the personalities involved in The Strange Phenomenon could play a major part in this phenomenon. Once again, I have theories about this, but no real understanding. Perhaps this is what is so interesting about Jean. There is nothing more fascinating than a mystery.

* not their real names

References

Duchaine, Brad & Nakayama, Ken The Cambridge Face Memory Test: Results for neurologically intact individuals and an investigation of its validity using inverted face stimuli and prosopagnosic participants. Neuropsychologia 44 (2006) 576–585.
http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/137neuropsychologiaDuchaine2006.pdf

Ramachandran, V. S. The tell-tale brain: unlocking the mystery of human nature. William Heinemann, 2011.

Robson, David Kiki or bouba? In search of language’s missing link. New Scientist. Issue 2821 19 July 2011. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128211.600-kiki-or-bouba-in-search-of-languages-missing-link.html

Letter personification links:

Wikipedia contributors Ordinal linguistic personification. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ordinal_linguistic_personification&oldid=411966125

Web page showing the logo for the Kambo’s company which includes a physically dynamic personification of the letter K:

http://boldbranding.com.au/Logo-Design

Web page showing the logo for the Removal Man company which includes a physically dynamic personification of the letter R:

http://www.removalists-perth.com.au/

Web page showing a poster for a movie with a title that starts with the letter Y which includes a physically dynamic and joyful pose of a man in the shape of the letter Y:

http://www.impawards.com/2008/yes_man.html

Web page showing a photo of a colourfully-dressed male Bhangra dancer in a typically joyful and physically dynamic letter Y pose:

http://www.cilco.co.uk/stock-photos/respect-2006/bhangra-dancer-red.htm

The Cambridge Face Memory Test appears to have nothing to do with that English university, Simon Baron-Cohen or autism

Some people seem to be mistakenly assuming that the CFMT is  a thing that came from the University of Cambridge in the UK. This is not an unreasonable assumption, but I’m pretty sure it is wrong. One of the originators of this test is Ken Nakayama, who at the time worked at the Vision Science Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States. The other academic who created this test was Brad Duchaine, who was working at the University College in London, not Cambridge Uni.

As far as I can tell this test is in no way connected to the University of Cambridge in the UK, or to the famous autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen who works at that university, and who has written a lot about face processing in relation to autism. I do wonder about the choice of a name for the CFMT.

Duchaine, Brad & Nakayama, Ken
The Cambridge Face Memory Test: Results for neurologically intact
individuals and an investigation of its validity using inverted
face stimuli and prosopagnosic participants.
Neuropsychologia 44 (2006) 576–585.
http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/137neuropsychologiaDuchaine2006.pdf

A link between autism and super-recognizer ability, or am I reading this wrong?

I was just having a look at an Australian/UK study of face recogniton ability that was published last year in the open-access science journal PLoS One. The subjects in one of the two studies reported in this paper were parents of autistic kids, and they were tested with the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT). The CFMT happens to be one of the tests that were used in the 2009 paper by Russell, Duchaine and Nakayama that established the concept of the super-recognizer. There are a couple of problems with comparing scores between these different papers – the 2009 paper used both the short and long forms of the CFMT and gave raw scores, while the 2010 paper used only the 72 question short form of the CFMT and gave age-standardized z-scores based on a study of the Australian population. But having looked at the 2009 study I don’t think the long form does that much better a job of sorting the super-recognizers from the controls than the short form does.

I’m happy to stand corrected, but to my eye it looks as though there is an interesting score in the CFMT reported in Figure 2 of the 2010 paper. If the vertical axis is in standard deviations then I guess that the top score from a father of an autistic child that is nearly level with the number two is close to super-recognizer class. He almost looks like an outlier. According to the authors of the 2010 paper, none of the parents of autistic kids in this study scored in the range of prosopagnosics, who apparently typically score less than two standard deviations below the control mean.

Definitions of prosopagnosiacs and super-recognizers can be found in the 2009 paper; “Most developmental prosopagnosics we have tested in our laboratories score around 2–3 SDs below normal on the CFMT short form. In comparison, 3 super-recognizers scored around 2 SDs above the mean on the CFMT long form.” It appears that the short and long forms of the CFMT are comparable with regard to SDs and face-blindness, and also I presume with regard to super-recognizers. What would really be interesting would be to see what kinds of scores the autistic kids would get on these tests.

References

Wilson CE, Freeman P, Brock J, Burton AM, Palermo R (2010) Facial Identity Recognition in the Broader Autism Phenotype. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12876. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012876
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0012876

Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 2009 Apr;16(2):252-7. http://pbr.psychonomic-journals.org/content/16/2/252.full.pdf      http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/157Russell_supersPBR.pdf

Just found interesting paper about Williams syndrome and the fusiform face area

It appears that having a fusiform face area (FFA) that is twice the normal size does not give people with Williams syndrome (WS) super powers of face recognition or expression recognition, but I’m not sure we can be completely sure that people with Williams do not have any special gift in reading faces, as other researchers have found fault with the test that was used in this study to measure face recognition ability. Williams syndrome is a genetic syndrome that is associated with  intellectual deficits, “heightened emotionality”, “hypersociability” and a special love of music. Dr Oliver Sacks wrote an interesting chapter about Williams syndrome in his book Musicophilia. I do not have Williams syndrome, and this syndrome does not run in my family. One thing that I do believe that I and some family members share in common with people who have Williams syndrome is our great love of music, despite a lack of musical education or training.

“The atypically large FFA volume that we found in WS was positively correlated with apparently normal performance levels on a standardized face-identity recognition task (Benton test) in the same participants. This finding is analogous to electrophysiological reports of atypically large N200 in WS, which is correlated with performance on the Benton test (Mills et al., 2000). However, in our experiments, the correlation between rFFA size and Benton scores reached statistical significance only after excluding two WS participants with the noisiest BOLD signals. The similarity in the mean performance across TD and WS in the Benton test may be due to insufficient sensitivity of the Benton test in detecting subtle variations in face-recognition proficiency (Duchaine and Nakayama, 2004).”

Has anyone ever done a study in which people who have Williams syndrome have been given the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT)? I’d love to read that.

Golijeh Golarai, Sungjin Hong, Brian W. Haas, Albert M. Galaburda, Debra L. Mills, Ursula Bellugi, Kalanit Grill-Spector & Allan L. Reiss The Fusiform Face Area is Enlarged in Williams Syndrome. Journal of Neuroscience. 12 May 2010, 30(19): 6700-6712; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4268-09.2010
http://www.jneurosci.org/content/30/19/6700.full

Duchaine, Bradley & Nakayama, Ken Developmental prosopagnosia and the Benton Facial Recognition Test. Neurology. April 13, 2004 vol. 62 no. 7 1219-1220. doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000118297.03161.B3 http://www.neurology.org/content/62/7/1219.abstract

“The Benton Facial Recognition Test is used for clinical and research purposes, but evidence suggests that it is possible to pass the test with impaired face discrimination abilities.”