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- Super-recognizer jobs, or why you should be testing prospective employees for visual memory
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- I've discovered another face memory test
- Woo Hoo! A test specifically for super-recognizers from CBS 60 Minutes
- Short super-recognizer test here!
- Pop singer Alessia Cara describes her synaesthesia experiences on The Project
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Tag Archives: Prosopagnosia
Leading researchers and prosopagnosics on Australian radio show about the extremes of face memory ability
Malcolm, Lynne What’s in a face? Prosopagnosia. All in the Mind. Radio National. February 19th 2017.
Dean, Diane Prosopagnosia: What it’s like to live with ‘face blindness’. ABC News. February 20th 2017.
There’s a link to the Cambridge Face Memory Test at the webpage for the radio show.
Sad but not surprising that prosopagnosics can be mistakenly perceived as having a personality issue rather than a perception issue.
I’ve got an anecdote that is rather like the opposite of the one shared by Dr Karl in the radio show, in which he came to understand that he had an unusual problem in recognizing fellow-students at university. Just this week I recognized (with no foreknowledge) a student that I once shared a tutorial group with when the student made a very brief appearance as an actor in a television advertisement. Nice! I wish him the best of luck in his acting career. He was working in a series of health promotion ads that consistently feature better acting than that often seen on the TV shows.
In case you are wondering, the music used in the radio show were two hits of the 70’s; that famous tune by Grace Jones and at the end the big hit by Roberta Flack.
The search for an effective intervention for prosopagnosia continues, but at least the knowledge of what is going on must be some help to people who face this challenge.
Editor’s pick: Excluded from the uncanny valley
From Bob Cockshott
New Scientist. Issue 3100. November 19th 2016. p.60.
The experience described in the letter seems to suggest that there is more to face recognition than simple memory or faces, or could it be that there are aspects of the perception of faces in particular that make them especially memorable? Faces are easy to personify because they are usually found on people. Perhaps it is the ability to detect the person behind the face that has become amiss in the letter’s author following his stroke, and maybe this ability feeds into face memory? Such a relationship would explain the author’s inability to notice the uncanny valley, and it would also explain why a personifying synaesthete like myself is also a super-recognizer.
I’ve had a read of the interesting article by Laura Spinney that this letter was a comment about, and I think the Perceptual Mismatch Theory of the Uncanny Valley Effect probably offers a more plausible explanation of my a prosopagnosic might be unable to detect the uncanny valley than the competing Category Uncertainty Theory. The article explained the two theories and evidence supporting them. To summarise, the CUT explains the UVE as the result of confusion about what type of thing one is looking at (for example robot or human?), while the PMT explains the UVE as resulting from unease or perceptual confusion when different features or parts of the thing or being viewed have dissimilar levels of human-like appearance (for example the face and skin look realistic but the eyes do not move like human eyes). I think the case of a prosopagnosic not detecting the UVE when people with normal face perception do is support for the PMT theory rather than the other because as far as I know, prosopagnosia does not involve inability to classify faces or bodies as human or non-human, while I believe there is evidence supporting the idea that prosopagnosia can be the result of not being able to perceptually integrate the features of the face as a whole that is recognizable as a unique or distinctive mix of many attributes and features. A non-prosopagnosic person should be able to perceive a face or body as a whole made up of parts, and notice if one or more elements has a level of humanity that does not match other parts, as in the PMT, while a prosopagnosic might not. Of course, research is needed to investigate my armchair speculations.
Preview at link below. Apparently a face perception researcher from Western Australia will be featured in the report, as well as Australian celebrity prosopagnosic, pop science book author and science popularizer Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. This sounds good, but at the same time, this is pretty-much tabloid TV so I have limited expectations for this report. The promo looks sensationalist and misleading, with the use of the inaccurate term “face blindness” rather than prosopagnosia, along with misleading illustration of the concept with blanked-out faces in the promo, making it look as though prosopagnosia is a perceptual problem rather than a visual memory problem. I think it should be called face memory deficit disorder or something similar. I’ll be watching with interest anyway.
My blog has two main themes, and one of them is exploring the relationship between super-recognition and synaesthesia. This theme was the main point of the very first posting in this blog, a description of an unusual experience of mine, which opened up a wonderful journey of exploring undiscovered relationships between interesting concepts in neuroscience, psychology and immunology. In my blog I have also asserted that there’s a reason why both synaesthesia and special abilities in reading and literacy-based skills seem to run in my family tree.
If you were wondering how the brain-based characteristics of super-recognition, synaesthesia, precocious reading and superior ability in reading and writing might be connected, I recommend that you have a read of this blog posting from Dr Kevin Mitchell, a researcher in developmental neurogenetics based in Ireland.
Mitchell, Kevin Schema formation in synaesthesia. Wiring the Brain. (blog) May 10th 2016.
While I was looking at the website of the Journal of Neuroscience I found this interesting and important free access article:
Michael Lohse, Lucia Garrido, Jon Driver, Raymond J. Dolan, Bradley C. Duchaine, and Nicholas Furl Effective Connectivity from Early Visual Cortex to Posterior Occipitotemporal Face Areas Supports Face Selectivity and Predicts Developmental Prosopagnosia. Journal of Neuroscience. 30 March 2016, 36(13): 3821-3828; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3621-15.2016
What is face selectivity? I’ll have to do a bit of study on that.
For me the findings of this study are not surprising, even though there are apparently new ideas in this paper about face selectivity and developmental prosopagnosia (DP). As a synaesthete who also appears to be a “super-recognizer” of faces from a family in which precociously high levels of literacy skills are found, I firmly believe that the common thread that runs through synaesthesia, literacy skills and face memory is good to exceptional connectivity inside the brain. My ideas are supported by research that has linked synaesthesia with hyper-connectivity, and has linked dyslexia and DP with problems with connectivity.
This talk or lecture by Professor Nancy Kanwisher is not new and the content will be nothing new to regular readers of this blog, but it is a nice introduction to the concepts of prosopagnosia, super-recognizers and the spectrum theory of face recognition ability, which has been challenged to a degree in a recent paper. I also like the little comment about the experience of being a “smart” student in high school. As a parent of gifted kids I know all about that stuff.
Individual differences in face recognition and developmental prosopagnosia
See more at:
Nancy’s Brain Talks
And all bar one are open access! Please readers let me know if there are more studies on supers out there.
Bobak A, Parris B, Gregory N, Bennetts R, Bate S (2016) Eye-Movement Strategies in Developmental Prosopagnosia and “Super” Face Recognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Posted online: 02 Mar 2016. DOI:10.1080/17470218.2016.1161059
The above paper interesting as it apparently supports the idea that developmental prosopagnosia is a heterogeneous condition and at least the most severe cases are not simply the bottom end of a spectrum of ability. The authors do seem to regard supers as the top end of a spectrum though. Researchers also found that supers and able controls spent more time looking at noses, a finding which I think I recall from another study. It makes sense to me as I feel that great face recognition ability is an automatic and involuntary process (like synaesthesia) that involves perception of the face as a whole “landscape”.
Bobak AK, Dowsett AJ, Bate S (2016) Solving the Border Control Problem: Evidence of Enhanced Face Matching in Individuals with Extraordinary Face Recognition Skills. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0148148. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148148
Bobak AK, Hancock PJB, Bate S. Super-recognisers in Action: Evidence from Face-matching and Face Memory Tasks. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 2016;30:81–91. doi: 10.1002/acp.3170
Robertson DJ, Noyes E, Dowsett AJ, Jenkins R, Burton AM (2016) Face Recognition by Metropolitan Police Super-Recognisers. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0150036. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150036
Anna Bobak and Dr Sarah Bate have been busy!
Daily Mail article about K C Andrew, a British lady with prosopagnosia:
Some quotes from the article are very thought-provoking:
“I recognise faces in animated things. I often describe people as looking like cartoons, actually – drawings are so much easier for me,’ she explained.”
Researchers could test that, no doubt. Could this be a clue to the exact nature of what does not work in face recognition of people with prosopagnosia, or just in this case in particular?
As is also the case in other personal accounts of living with prosopagnosia, K C Andrew uses other visible characteristics of people to identify them, such as gait and mannerisms, and I think some info given in the article hints that Ms Andrew could have developed a superior ability in memorizing and identifying these things. Should we look for unknown special abilites in prosopagnosia? Might it be linked to some specific superiority in perception as in colour-blindness?
As far as I can tell, L’Homme aux cercles bleus is another movie, like the Bollywood movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, that has a plotline that relies upon the leading female character having prosopagnosia, but then again, a good many drama films from any part of the world leave me either baffled or behind. All the same, I can honestly say I saw the twist in the plot way before the ending, and there was nothing subtle about it.
I could watch Charlotte Rampling’s face all night long. Oh wait, I just did. Those eyes. Those expressions. What a face.