Tag Archives: Non-face Recognition

Making children’s television even more annoying

The Annoying Orange is now a TV show, “The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange”, which is currently being broadcast on ABC3. It’s another example of a personified object and personified foodstuff in a comedy show. Why do at least some of us love to see food with human characteristics in sculpture or funny TV shows? What’s the surreal appeal of things that behave like people? Are these quirks of popular culture in any way related to personification synaesthesia or the mental modelling of faces, genders and personalities that gives rise to facial recognition?

Some interesting aspects of the Annoying Orange’s TV show are that it highlights two facts about the visual recognition of people – that dentition can be used to visually identify individuals just like faces can, and that there is one aspect of dentition that can in many cases indicate the gender of the person who owns the teeth. In other words, dentition displays sexual dimorphism, and I suspect that while the Annoying Orange has a male voice that matches his male teeth, one of the other fruity characters in his TV show might not have the correct gender of dentition for their voice and character. Do you know which aspect of human dentition sometimes displays sexual dimorphism?

Annoying Orange  http://annoyingorange.com/

Oh look! Article in fascinating “Mindscapes” series in New Scientist about prosopagnosia

Autobiographer Heather Sellers is profiled, prosopagnosia is described, leading face memory researcher Brad Duchaine is interviewed and a brain scan study of his is described, an interesting study by Italian researcher Zaira Cattaneo using transcranial magnetic stimulation is outlined. Nice work, Helen Thomson! I wonder whether a super-recognizer might in the future be featured in this series? I can only guess.


Links to research papers:

Martin Eimer, Angela Gosling and Bradley Duchaine Electrophysiological markers of covert face recognition in developmental prosopagnosia. Brain (2012) 135(2): 542-554 first published online January 23, 2012 doi:10.1093/brain/awr347  http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/135/2/542

Chiara Renzi, Susanna Schiavi, Claus-Christian Carbon, Tomaso Vecchi, Juha Silvanto, Zaira Cattaneo Processing of featural and configural aspects of faces is lateralized in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: A TMS study. NeuroImage. July 2013.   http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811913001420


Ear recognition the key, not face recognition?

One of the stories on 60 Minutes (Australian) a couple of weeks ago was interesting in terms of the visual and forensic recognition and identification of a person. The title of the true story was The Imposter,  reported by Karl Stefanovic and produced by Gareth Harvey. The story was about the missing American boy Nicholas Barclay and the French serial impostor Frédéric Bourdin who pretended to be the missing boy grown older. A documentary film about this story was released this year. Amazingly, he was believed by close relatives of the missing boy even though his eyes and hair were of a different colour to the missing boy, his age was a mismatch, he had a French accent, and of course a different face. The most disturbing aspect of the story was how an obvious faker found in Spain could have been misidentified as a missing American boy by police, the FBI and the US immigration department, and then legally documented as the missing boy and flown to the USA. These organizations are full of blind people? I guess these organizations must have a great record for employing the disabled, but also a lousy record for doing their jobs accurately. I’m not sure if these organizations need to recruit some super-recognizers, or just need to employ more people with basic thinking and decision-making skills and a firm grasp on rationality.

An interesting feature that this case shares with the baffling Australian mystery the Taman Shud Case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man is the forensic examination of ears to identify a person. The French impostor was busted by private investigator Charlie Parker who noticed that the ears of Barclay and  Bourdin did not match. ”I asked the cameraman to zoom in on his ears, because I knew that was the way to identify people for sure; I had read a book about Scotland Yard doing that.” This is another thing that amazes me about this case; I don’t understand why the ears were seen as a more certain way to prove that the man with the French accent wasn’t the American missing boy than the different colours of the irises of their eyes or their clearly different faces. Why are ears seen as a more objective measure? Because they are an overlooked part of the body that people don’t cosmetically alter much? It makes me wonder whether our culture has been misled into thinking that face recognition by humans is a subjective art because of instances of facial misidentifications by some prosopagnosics whose disability isn’t understood. Most people are very good at identifying faces of other people from their own race, and are also naturally very good at identifying voices. Some people are exceptionally good at remembering faces. There are times when we need to trust our own natural abilities and use our common sense.

Missing boy and the will to believe. by Stephanie Bunbury Sydney Morning Herald. February 23, 2013


60 Minutes. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8633767

Somerton Beach Mystery Man. Reporter: Simon Royal. Stateline (South Australia) Broadcast: 15/05/2009  http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/sa/content/2006/s2573273.htm

Fashion recognition app that could be useful for prosopagnosics

Google Glass app identifies you by your fashion sense. by Paul Marks New Scientist. Magazine issue 2907, 7 March 2013.

I’m not completely clear how this recognition technology works, but it says it creates a spatiogram that is a record of what a person is wearing, including colours, and it can be used to identify an individual in a crowd. I found it interesting that face recognition was dismissed as unfeasable, considering the many articles I’ve read over the years making big claims for face recognition technology:

“Face recognition systems cannot be used for this, says InSight developer Srihari Nelakuditi at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, because it is unlikely someone in a crowd will be looking straight at a headset’s camera.”

Interesting sights of Guildford

When people who have prosopagnosia explain how they get by in life with a substandard ability to recognize people by their faces, they often cite other features of people which can be distinctive enough for positive identification. The voice is an excellent identifying feature, but it only works within earshot when the person is talking. Some prosopagnosics identify others by distinctive walks. I believe it is possible to identify people by seeing a distinctive collection of details that can in themselves be more or less distinctive, a mode of identification that involves both looking at many details and seeing an overall pattern. The distinctive details can be just about any part of the body. Family ties can be seen in some teeth, a nice-looking set of teeth or crooked teeth, but not straightened teeth. A person’s overall build and bodily proportions can be very distinctive. Feet and ears can be memorable. Some people have elbows that really stick out. Even something as plain and overlooked as a back can catch the eye.

I often become scenically lost after seeing people off to the airport. I usually end up travelling through Midland and Guildford, looking around at the sights. Guildford is a pretty, peaceful place, with the historical old boys’ school, the disused weigh-station, the railway crossing that looks like a death-trap and lots of very old buildings that have been done up as restaurants or still operate as shops or hotels. Despite the interesting sights, I just didn’t feel like stopping for a visit. I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to historical places that look a bit forgotten, and prestigious old suburbs that look as though they are designed for the wealthy aged. I’ve recently had reason to visit an exclusive old part of the Western suburbs, and for me places like these and Guildford feel a bit too much like a museum, or a memento mori.

So I kept cruising out of Guildford, in the middle of a sunny weekday, but I was forced to roll to a stop at some traffic lights. A bus was pulled up beside me, and then a bloke on a motorbike stopped between us and struck up a conversation with the bus driver, who was very much exposed by an open window. I looked across and the appearance of the back of the motorbike rider struck me as familiar and interesting, but I never saw his face. The way his once-navy-blue-coloured t-shirt had faded to a speckled grey pattern from exposure to fabric-destroying salt in sweat and UV rays is something that I’ve seen before on the back of an interesting man who I know, who also happens to have a passion for motor bikes. The bike rider’s ridged and muscular back was another feature that these men have in common. With the exception of the odd young buck, normal men have backs that are pretty much flat from side to side, but the motor bike rider and the man who I know have backs with a deep depression down the centre and firm-looking mountain-ranges of muscle on either side of this valley. The man who I know is one of a small minority of blokes who are naturally and mysteriously blessed with a hard physique well into middle age, despite never playing sport, nor going near any gymnasium, and no use of steroid supplements. The most scruffy appearance of the motor-bike rider in Guildford made me doubt that his muscular back was the result of a membership of any health club, and I doubt that there are too many places or groups that would accept this rag-tag as a member, with the possible exception of a bikie club. The motorbike rider had an untidy style that is often associated with bikies, but he didn’t really fit the stereotype. His helmet was coloured, not black, his clothing didn’t look like a bikie uniform, and his bike couldn’t have been one of those excessively noisy ones favoured by bikie types, because he was having a conversation over the top of the sound of it running. I wondered whether I was looking at a man who is individually too wild for any group, and soon after that, I don’t know exactly why, I felt sure that I was looking at Adrian.

Adrian, otherwise known as “Mad Dog” or “Mad Adrian” once had a fan club of thousands on Facebook, but no one even knew what his full name was.  He has been the subject of many true stories of first-hand sightings and numerous urban legends, indeed he could be described as a Western Australian urban legend. I remembered that the Midland area is a known haunt of Adrian, who for many years has displayed the interesting habit of roaming the streets on a bicycle or in more recent times a motorbike, barking, growling, yelling or swearing at drivers and pedestrians. I believe it must have been Adrian who I saw a very long time ago when I was in my teens or early 20s, somewhere in the Western non-mall section of Hay Street in Perth. There was a young man with a beard and scruffy curly light brown hair walking beside his bicycle barking loudly at startled shoppers, a hilarious sight when the look of terror isn’t on your own face.

The man on the motorbike didn’t yell or bark, but I knew there was something interesting about him. The lights went green and the bus and I took off, and I expected the bloke on the bike would zoom way ahead of us, but it appeared that he kept talking and keeping pace with the bus. I veered slightly out of my lane to pass safely.

A while later in hindsight I wondered – why did Mr Muscles on the motor bike like to socialize while in charge of a moving motor vehicle amongst traffic? I was recently stuck in a traffic jam caused by an accident involving a motorbike rider who was seen lying on the road not moving. Motorbike riding is not a safe mode of transport at the best of times. One could argue that motorbikes are for madmen, but it is also a mode of transport that preserves the sense that one is still in touch with the world as one travels through it. Did the man on the motorbike like to chat while on a bike so that he could make a fast escape if the conversation was not to his liking? Does he want to be among people while still controlling the distance between himself and the rest of the human race?

I later remembered that I had once seen a photograph of a man identified as “Mad Dog” in a book of photographs of Midland, and at the time I had been struck by the muscularity of his physique. They still have that book at the library. The information given in the brief caption of the photograph suggests that “Mad Dog” has had a difficult life. His face is partially obscured in the black and white photo, but I could see that his body and unkempt hair look the same as the motorbike rider sighted in Guildford. He is wearing a faded t-shirt that was once a dark colour, which is so degraded by wear that it is spotted with small holes. Clearly this is a man who likes to get his full money’s worth out of budget-priced casual attire. In this photo “Mad Dog” is holding a bicycle. I have never seen such a healthy-looking marginalized person in all my life.  I have got to wonder if there is a link between the muscles and the marginalization. These days there seems to be nothing more unfashionable than unpolished, wild masculinity. It appears that the winners in our society are the smooth-talkers and the pen-pushers with pencil necks and flat backs. I’m sure they have comfy lives and have lots of money, but they never get mistaken for legends.

A link to a photograph of Adrian on Facebook – a poor image of his “back and crack”, wearing the same faded blue t-shirt



Gentile, Andrew Midland, a Swan Valley town:  images from the passing of an era during the last years to century’s end. (text and photographs by Andrew Gentile), A. Gentile, 2002.

Some Facebook groups about “Mad Dog” Adrian of Midland

We love you, Mad Adrian


Mad dog (of midland) fan club….waaagh!


I’v been terrorised by “MAD DOG”