Tag Archives: Names (personal)

A little bit of awareness promoted on ABC television (Australian)

Nice to see prosopagnosia briefly mentioned and explained on this popular Australian TV series about modern manners. The perennial problem of memorizing the name that goes with the face was also touched upon.

How Not To Behave. Series 1 Ep 11 Dinner And Parties. ABC. Broadcast September 30th 2015.


Sounds delicious

Kwinana – banana

Fiona – Passiona

Duncan – pumpkin

Walcott – walnut

pastor – pasta

Kojonup – coconut

Jesus – cheeses

Marmion – marmalade

Ceduna – tuna

My lexical-gustatory synaesthesia:


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.

British former police detective and writer also a super-recognizer?

“I’ve been told I have a photographic memory. I’m not sure that such a condition exists, but it is true that I never needed to refer to my notebook in court, made interviews a nightmare for suspects and could not forget a face, crime or clue. Badge numbers, car registrations, court cases, names and faces are all stored neatly on my mind’s infinite box of index cards and I usually have little trouble recovering them when needed.”

This passage on page 12 brings to mind the famous memory genius discovered by the Russian neuro-psychologist Alexander Luria, the synaesthete newspaper reporter whose memory gift was discovered by his boss after he explained why he never needed to take notes in a notebook. Luria gave him the name of S in the book that he wrote about the case; Mind of a Mnemonist. A couple of questions also come to mind on reading the above passage. Is it true? Who can tell? The author of the passage, which is an excerpt from the beginning of the book The Crime Factory, goes by the anonymous pen-name of Officer A, so checking the truth or probability of these quite extraordinary claims would have to be difficult. Another question – if Officer A’s memory really is as amazing as claimed, did it get that way by a natural gift or by training or a combination of both? One final question – is Officer A a synaesthete like the amazing S? I’ll have to continue reading to see whether any of my questions are answered. One thing that I can say about the book is that the bit about treating a case of severe bleeding in the leg utterly contradicts what I was taught in St John Ambulance first aid classes, so I think there is at least some dodgy information in the book.

I’ve found more interesting stuff on page 53. in which the author explains the pros and cons of having a “photographic memory”, and it it clear that it can cause a condition that is perhaps related to post-traumatic stress disorder in which ordinary visual stimuli can “trigger” the involuntary retrieval of visual memories of unpleasant scenes experienced in his work as a police officer. An example given is the sight of a stainless steel draining board triggering a visual memory of a dead baby after a post-mortem examination. I think I’ve written on the subject of PTSD before when reviewing the book The Shaking Woman by synesthete novelist Siri Hustvedt, and I recall that I speculated that PTSD might be connected to PTSD. After reading this book I’m all the more convinced, because the involuntary recall of traumatic visual memories described by the policeman seems to operate in the same way as synaesthesia, and is in many ways similar to my many experiences of having non-traumatic visual memories of scenes or faces evoked by visual or other cognitive triggers, which I have argued are a less-known types of synaesthesia. I’m not the least surprised that an extraordinary visual memory can have great advantages and disadvantages.

Don’t let me mislead you into thinking this is a book about neuro-psychology. It is basically an action-packed autobiography of a British detective who has worked in England and also in Perth, Western Australia. Western Australian readers will no doubt be shocked by the ugly picture that the anonymous author has painted of the police in Perth.

Amazon UK page for the book  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crime-Factory-Shocking-Front-Line-Detective/dp/1780575254

Sunday Times (WA) article by Anthony DeCeglie about the book and accusations made in it about WA police  http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/cop-spills-all-on-wa-police/story-e6frg13u-1226532858410

Cached text-only version of quite shocking April 2012 article from People magazine by Douglas Wight that is based on the book’s introduction  http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.people.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/2012/04/15/the-filth-explosive-revelations-of-police-officers-crimes-hushed-up-to-save-embarrassment-102039-23825713/&hl=en&tbo=d&strip=1

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