Tag Archives: Mnemonists

This study came out in March

Ramon, M., Miellet, S., Dzieciol, A. M., Konrad, B. N., Dresler, M., & Caldara, R. (2016). Super-Memorizers Are Not Super-Recognizers. PloS one, 11(3), e0150972. Published: March 23, 2016.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0150972

This study has been published for a good while but I’ve just stumbled across it. It does not appear to be a study of super-recognizers, but makes reference to the concept of super-recognition in the title. I suspect that their might be some incorrect assumptions in the premise of this study, as one cannot compare natural face recognition or natural face memory with the kinds of mnemonic tricks used by competitors in memory championships, and you also cannot compare the tasks, which are actually quite different and utilise different abilities. I’ve seen the face-related tasks in such competions, and I’ve also read books by memory champs and stage memory performers about how to perform these tricks, and it isn’t natural face recognition. Anyway, I should limit my comments until I get a chance to read the study in full, which might never happen.

 

Confirmation that Harry Lorayne’s “names and faces” method is not designed to address the problem of poor face memory or prosopagnosia

“Most of us recognize faces (did you ever hear anyone say, “Oh, I know your name, but I don’t recognize your face”?). It’s the names we have trouble with. Since we do usually recognize faces, the thing to do is apply a system wherein the face tells us the name. That is basically what Mr Lorayne’s system accomplishes, if it is applied correctly.”

on page 51 of The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas, Ballantine Books, 1974.

Perhaps this method might be of some use to prosopagnosics, but it clearly isn’t designed to aid or replace face memory ability. Normal face memory is assumed.

Doubts that legendary memory performer had any advice for prosopagnosics

On the weekend we visited “the hills”. Communities in picturesque forest locations a bit away from the city tend to have a lot of arts and crafts and historical attractions and also lots of second-hand book shops. They are a lot like Fremantle, but not a port and there’s less foreign tourists and probably not nearly as many junkies. Can any community have too much “arts and crafts”? I think it is possible. Why paint life badly when you could be experiencing it instead? Browsing second-hand bookshops is also a questionable use of time, but I can’t keep out of them. I know the vast majority of their stock has a value that is close to landfill, but now and then I come across a forgotten book that adds something unique to a current interest. In one second-hand bookshop I spotted an old, stained and overpriced copy of a book about recognizing people written by the legendary mnemonist Harry Lorayne, whose specialty was memorizing the names of people in the audience in incredible quantities, presumably mentally linking names with faces.

For a person with a scientific interest in face memory, a performer like Lorrayne is of interest. How did he do it? Did he have superior face memory? Did he have a technique for improving face memory? I didn’t buy the book by Lorrayne, but I scanned through it to get an idea what all of the chapters were about, and as far as I can tell, there’s no technique in the book except  mnemonic techniques for creating and memorizing visual images that are visual-conceptual mnemonics for linking people’s names to their faces. As far as I can tell Lorayne’s techniques are all about linking names with faces, but offer no tips or help in visually memorizing the faces. As far as I can tell, Lorrayne takes normal face memory in the reader for granted, so I doubt that a prosopagnosic would find anything to help in his book. I can imagine that a face-blind person might have bought this book in the hope that it would help, and be left disappointed and confused. We should be very grateful to the researchers in psychology and neuroscience who are giving us more and more real information and advice about face memory and prosopagnosia and other perceptual abilities and disabilities. Reliable information, useful tests and the latest research findings can be found through the internet. Ignorance should be left behind in dusty old second-hand book shops.

What does the memory competition community to have to offer prosopagnosics?

O’Brien, Domininc Never Forget a Name or Face. 

http://www.amazon.com/Never-Forget-Name-Dominic-OBrien/dp/0811836347

It comes as no surprise that a book on the subject of memorizing names and faces by a memory competition champion is apparently not a massive success. Dominic O’Brien won the World Memory Championships eight times over, and he is the author of many successful and highly respected self-help books about memory, so he is most definitely an expert on memory (a practicing expert, not an academic researcher expert) and writes good books on the subject. So why is his book about remembering names and faces apparently unpopular, with only one review on Amazon, a negative one? Perhaps it is because face memory is different to memory in general. Poor face memory is a visual agnosia and is not the result of a lack of effort in memorization or a lack of knowledge about mnemonic techniques. Memory sport champions with normal abilities in visual recognition and visual memory might be very good at using memory techniques, but do they have anything much to offer the prosopagnosic?

We can’t dismiss mnemonists and memory performers before establishing exactly how they achieve their feats of memorization. The American Harry Lorayne is one memory performer who has an incredible record for matching names with faces. He reputedly memorized more than 7,500,000 names and faces over a lifetime, but such claims (found in a 1994 book by Buzan and Keene) are hard to test. Are researchers in the science of face memory, prosopagnosia and super-recognizers the only ones to look to for knowledge about face memory and face memory impairment, or can non-academic practicing memory experts make a useful contribution? We shouldn’t forget that one of the most famous academic case studies of superior memory, published in the book The Mind of a Mnemonist by Alexander Luria, was a study of a man who had at one time worked as a stage mnemonist. Many people believe that Luria misunderstood the basis of the astounding memory abilities of Shereshevsky.

Wikipedia contributors Harry Lorayne. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Harry_Lorayne&oldid=543782362