Tag Archives: Tests

Why you will leave shops empty-handed this Christmas season, just the same as last year, and the year before that….

As sure as night follows day, in the days leading up to Christmas supermarkets will run out of packets of dehydrated French onion soup, just when you had the idea to make your own cheap but tasty party dips out of cream cheese or sour cream and the aforementioned processed soup. I’m guessing this happens every year because the state-of-the-art stock ordering computer programs used by the supermarkets group products into categories, and soup being a product range that generally sells more in winter, is not ordered in any quantity in the summer season leading up to Christmas in Australia. Perhaps a similar logic explains why breakfast foods such as hash browns and kippers become scarce in the festive season. I’m guessing that cooked breakfast foods aren’t items in the summer range, even though big cooked breakfasts have been a popular form of family Christmas meal in Australia since the 1990s.

More common and perennial problems in stock replenishment in retail establishments are the big empty chasms where useful and desirable products are supposed to be stocked, and the related problem of the wrong product housed in slots on variety and supermarket shelves. These issues are a problem for retailers, as in the former situation a sale does not happen and in the latter situation the item stocked will most likely be advertised at the wrong price. If the shopper has seen a box of 375g salted mixed nuts stocked in a slot displaying a price of $3.00, around $3.05 less than the price that it scans at, the customer has every right to insist that they be sold the item at the lesser price that they saw when they selected the item, even though I’ve found that staff at a local Woolworths supermarket will defend their right to display $8 pots of bubble-mix in the slot in the toy section designated to $3 bubble mix, not conceding one red cent of discount, whatever the consumer law might say. Shoppers also have a problem when stuff isn’t kept in the shops where stuff is meant to be found. When confronted with fresh air where an item on their shopping list should be found a shopper could feel peeved, because they then have to walk across the shopping centre or drive across town to source an alternative, or do without. And when they are confronted with incorrectly shelved items they may become misled or confused over the price. And the problem goes deeper than that. When some dunce fills a box of Fimo soft light modelling clay packets into a slot at an Officeworks store which was supposed to house similar-sized packages of Das air-drying modelling clay, and hangs an “out-of-stock” sign where the Fimo item should reside, the Fimo is then advertised at the wrong price as a different product, and I’m guessing when the automatic stock-ordering system delivers more of the Das clay, which is really out-of-stock, the shelf-stocking person might find an full slot where their box of Das product should be placed. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but I know that in supermarket night-fill operations the workers are placed under constant pressure to throw product onto the shelves fast, so there isn’t time for anyone to pull the twenty-three blackcurrant jam jars out of the blackberry jam slot, rebox or rehouse them all, and then refill the slot with the contents of the box of blackberry jam. What will probably happen is that the box of blackberry jam will be marked as overstock and returned to the back of the supermarket on a cage to languish in darkness for an indefinite sentence. I hope you like blackcurrant jam, and I hope you don’t have an allergic reaction to the hazelnut wafers that were shelved in the chocolate wafers slot.

I understand that once retail shelves have been allowed to degrade into a state of chaos the disorder becomes a self-perpetuating system, and I know that hope can never be held for any logic or order in any retail space devoted to an extensive range of light globes, but I also wonder whether I’m the only one who sees the errors in product stocking every time I walk into a shop or walk down a retail aisle. Do other shoppers notice the boxes of fish fingers heaped six-high above the fill-line in the freezers? Do store managers notice the expired use-by dates, the 600ml bottles sitting in the 300ml bottle slot, the grey bacon, or does it not register? If they do see the mess and the mistakes, does it not bother them?

The phrase “an eye for detail” pops up fairly frequently in the world of recruiting and HR but no one ever tests for it, and as far as I know, there are no valid, reliable, standardised tests relevant to “eye for detail” and I know of no scientific definition of this ability (readers please correct me and inform me if you know more about this than I do). The standard of spelling ability of job applicants might be used to estimate “eye for detail”, but this standard is a fairly low bar, and it is also not an area of ability that another poor speller is able to judge. One fundamental truth that I’ve learned in researching the science of face memory and visual recognition is that seeing doesn’t simply happen in the eyes, it happens in the eyes and brain. You can have your eyes open but not really see if your brain isn’t processing the information supplied by your eyes, and that is why we all get to see so many dark, empty spaces when we are trying to stock up for the silly season.

Don’t confuse poor face memory with aphasia

I know this fascinating article is from 2013, but it makes such an important point about face recognition that I want to bring it to your attention, if you weren’t already aware of it. The ability to remember a person’s face is a different ability than the ability to name the person the face belongs to. These abilities are evidently processed in different areas of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no direct link to the journal paper this article summarizes, so I cannot quickly determine whether the test using the faces of famous people is the same as the “Famous Faces” test that I have previously mentioned at this blog (and done myself). It does sound similar to one of the tests offered here, free of charge: https://www.testmybrain.org/

Famous faces to help spot early dementia.
Anna Salleh ABC. 13 August 2013.


Damn, it’s behind a paywall

I was wondering whether this interesting-sounding paper might mention face memory ability, because other research has shown that ability in this area peaks much later than many other cognitive abilities, in the third decade of life, as I recall, and no one knows why, and it is one of those fascinating mysteries in psychological science that I love to ponder. It is certainly nice to know that there is even one cognitive ability that peaks as late as the seventh decade of life, considering how long it has been since I saw my 30th birthday. I also noticed that one of the authors of the paper (Laura Germine) is one who has done face memory research in the past, and some of the data used in the study was gathered using a website that has a history of offering free to the internet public access to world-class face memory and face perception tests (testmybrain.org). But the paper is behind a paywall, so I’m left wondering.






Supermatchers super-recognizers, same thing, isn’t it?

Passport Problem. Catalyst. ABC. February 24th 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4185916.htm

Why are the science journalists at the Catalyst team trying to distance this story from the existing body of research and writing on the same subject as the story, by using a new term for people with tested elite ability in face recognition? As far as I can tell, the skill is the pretty-much same as the skill measured by the CFMT, which I believe is recognized by researchers around the world as a gold-standard test of face memory or face recognition.

Australian study finds evidence suggesting that use of recreational drug ecstasy will damage face perception ability

White, Claire, Edwards, Mark, Brown, John and Bell, Jason The impact of recreational MDMA ‘ecstasy’ use on global form processing. Journal of Psychopharmacology. August 20, 2014

Published online before print August 20, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0269881114546709



Yeang, Lily Ecstasy use affects ability to detect faces, shapes and patterns. ScienceNetwork Western Australia.



One should bear in mind that this study only used a small number of long-term ecstasy users as subjects (6) and these people also used other drugs, which could have had an influence, and it appears that actual faces or images of faces were not a part of the study, which tested the type of visual processing of which face processing is apparently one example. The full text of the study is behind a paywall, so I’ve not yet read it in full. The study is certainly interesting, as it displays internal consistency in the findings which are also apparently compatible with the findings of other studies.

This study is just another good reason why the testing of visual processing, including abilities such as face memory and global form processing, should ideally be an element of the job recruitment selection process for many jobs. “If global form processing is damaged or deficient then our speed and accuracy in recognizing objects in the environment, and our ability to navigate amongst those objects, will be impaired.” So does that mean that long-term ecstasy users aren’t OK to operate heavy machinery or to drive? I think it is anyone’s guess, and there is no law enforcement or job screening process that I am aware of that is likely to detect people with this kind of visual processing disability, until they have a crash. If you know otherwise, please leave a comment and we we’ll all be the wiser.

Calling all supers! New testing opportunity for all, and for some to take part in a study


One of the world’s leading researchers in the related areas of face memory, face recognition, prosopagnosia and super-recognition has given me the tip that super-recognizers are wanted as research subjects, and they are being recruited through the above web link which appears to be associated with the long-running online research and volunteer testing website TestMyBrain. I have also been advised that for this study the researchers are looking for subjects who reside in the continental states of the United States of America, but if that isn’t you, and you get a very high score in the test and follow the instructions and send the researchers your score there is some possibility that some time in the future you might be sought for some other study. Of course, you don’t have to share your score with anyone, and you might wish to take this test simply to get a good idea of what level of face memory ability you have. Maybe you suspect that you might have prosopagnosia (disability in face memory) or you might just want verification that you are what we call normal. When I finished the test I was given my own score and also an average score, so I guess you could use this test to compare yourself against the norm. I am not sure whether the researchers might object to curious people rather than potential super-recognizer study subjects doing the test. If that is a problem, they can let me know. I am also not 100% sure whether or not all scores from doing the online test are used as anonymous research data, as is the case in some websites that offer online neuro-cognitive testing, or is this testing merely used to screen eligible candidates for an upcoming study of super-recognizers. I suspect the latter. You should contact the researchers yourself if you have any questions.

This is an important new opportunity to undergo a test of face memory ability because this test is a version of the Cambridge Face Memory Test, a test that has a well-deserved reputation as a scientifically valid test of face memory, and it has been quite a long time since I’ve been aware of any version of the CFMT being openly available to take through the internet. This test appears to be a third version of the CFMT, the first being a 72 question short form, the second version being the 102 question long form, and this version being another 72 question version but with new faces (I’m pretty good at judging these things) that are computer-generated. All versions have all male faces. I recall reading somewhere that the faces used for the first version of the CFMT are based on real American Caucasian people. It’s probably a good idea to use computer-generated faces for the latest version, to avoid the possibility that real people might be stopped in the street by super-recognizers exclaiming “Hey! You’re one of those blokes in that face recognition test!”

For people hoping to find a way of documenting their own status as a super-recognizer this is an opportunity to do a scientifically credible test of face recognition and also get access to your own written score in that test along with an average score, but be advised that I did not automatically get any printed statement verifying that my score was in the range of super-recognizers, and I did not notice any printed range of scores for super-recognizers given anywhere in the testing. It was pretty obvious from the results page that my score was in the elite range though. I have been advised by someone who should know that a score of 69 is considered to be in the super-recognizer range. I found this test to be harder than the first version of the CFMT, and I suspect that super-recognizers might find that they don’t bump their heads on a ceiling with this test. Information that I have at hand suggests that the average score on the new 72 question version of the CFMT is lower than the average score on the old 72 question version. For super-recognizers who are eligible and willing to take part in the study after they have done the screening test I guess there might be further opportunities to document their status as a super-recognizer and meet researchers, but I can only guess. At least your participation would give you the right to refer to yourself as a “Citizen Scientist”, which sounds fairly impressive. As I live in Australia I will not be able to participate in the study so I can’t advise you where it all leads. My best tips for people interested in documenting their score are to follow the instructions carefully, be ready to take your own full-colour print-outs of any screen with your score on it and if you have questions contact the people behind the test.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been asked by a researcher from an overseas university to help with recruiting supers for research studies, and I’m happy to help with genuine requests because I like to see science moving forward and I know that participating in research can be interesting and sometimes rewarding. The website TestMyBrain is associated with many genuine researchers of social psychology, neuro-cognition, visual perception, face perception and various interesting and important things, including researchers from the Social Perception Lab at Dartmouth College and researchers from the prestigious Harvard University. Researchers linked to the website appear to be generally based at universities and colleges in the United States of America.

In case you are curious, my score on the new test is 69 out of 72 and I have been advised that my score is in the super-recognizer range. As I have written about in old posts at this blog, I have also done the earlier versions of the CFMT. The first version of the CFMT was either the first or the second face memory test that I ever did, and I was amazed at the time to get perfect scores on both online tests I did that day. I had gotten 72 out of 72 on the old version of the CFMT, but till then I had no idea that I was a super-recognizer. In 2010 through an Australian university I did some face memory tests in person and I firmly believe one of those tests was the long form of the CFMT, my score in that one given as “96%”, which presumably means I got 98 correct out of a possible 102 correct, which is well within the super-recognizer range, based on data about supers from the 2009 journal paper that launched the concept of the super-recognizer. As I’ve stated earlier, I have at hand data that indicates that the new CFMT is more difficult than the earlier version of the same length. The norm for the first version was given as 80% correct face recognition (presumably an average score of 57.6 out of 72) while the average for the new version is currently cited as a score of 52.49 (out of 72). So it appears that the CFMT has become more difficult while my face memory ability has not measurably changed in the four years since it was first tested.

I wish the researchers planning to study supers the best of luck and I look forward to reading a published report of what they find. We are all working to help people and to advance scientific knowledge, and those are for sure two noble causes.

There’s a back-story to my theory

I can show data dating back to the year 2000 that supports my theory that low levels of complement proteins, which are a part of the human immune system, specifically C3, C4 and most likely C1q, are the biological cause of the development of inherited synaesthesia (at least in some cases). Before I had thought of the idea of a link between the immune system and synaesthesia I had, at the blog, published a theory that synaesthesia is in some way the neurological opposite of a variety of dementia named Benson’s syndrome (aka PCA, posterior cortical atrophy), based on my observations and reading. I had speculated that there could be some “magical chemical” that regulated the brain in some way and that oppositely extreme levels of this magical chemical could be the biological basis of both synaesthesia and Benson’s syndrome. Back in 2012 I read a small article in New Scientist magazine that blew my mind, because it appeared that it gave me some major clues about what that magical chemical could be. The article was about the exciting work of Dr Beth Stevens on microglial pruning in the brain and the immune system’s complement proteins. The term “pruning” was familiar to me from all of my reading about synaesthesia, which is a fun heritable brain-based phenomenon which I share with some of my first-degree relatives, along with specific gifts in literacy skills. The term “complement” in the context of the immune system, and the individual names of complement proteins were also familiar to me.

Being a super-recognizer, I’m pretty good at recognizing patterns, and I recognized that all these elements of information fitted together into an important and original multi-faceted theory. I was so excited that I published a brief outline of my theory at this blog in 2012. In 2013 I was shocked to discover that a prominent synaesthesia researcher and her co-author had published a theoretical journal paper titled “The immune hypothesis of synesthesia” which even included speculation that the “complement system” could be the element of the immune system responsible for the development of synaesthesia. I found no credit given in that paper to me or my blog. As I had published my theory first I believe I should have been fully acknowledged. I never thought that this could have been a case of two separate parties thinking of the same idea independently. I read their paper through and I looked into the educational and research background of both authors and their previous publications and found no study or writing about the immune system and no indication or explanation of why they might have suddenly had their own insight linking synaesthesia with some of the many elements of the incredibly complex immune system that only an immunologist would find interesting. 

This Easter I’d like to pose the question; can Simner and Carmichael offer data dating back to the year 2000 as the basis of their published version of “the immune hypothesis of synesthesia”? I can, and I would be willing to share my data with serious medical researchers.

A while ago I was sorting through some piles of old papers that I had stowed away years ago without sorting through them. These things happen during a busy family life. These piles had been sitting around for years, some of it photocopies of articles from New Scientist magazine that had struck me as interesting but which I hadn’t always had the time to read through properly. I was amused to find that I had stowed away an article from the March 1st 2008 issue titled “Thought control” by Bijal Trivedi. It was all about exciting research by the likes of Carla Shatz, Ben Barres, Simon John, Staffan Cullheim, Eliezer Masliah, Robert Terry and Lisa Boulanger about synapse loss in dementia and the interesting things that elements of the immune system appeared to be doing in the brain, contrary to the received wisdom that there is a thing called the blood-brain barrier that keeps the immune system out of the brain. I’m not sure whether or not I had read the article back then, but I can understand why it had sparked my interest. Back then it wasn’t enough of a spark to give me the idea of a link between the immune system and synaesthesia, because back then I hadn’t even heard of the terms “super-recognizer” or “Benson’s syndrome”, in fact the concept and the term of “super-recognizer” hadn’t yet been published. Back then I had not the slightest inkling that I had better than average ability in face recognition, so I hadn’t started thinking about whether it was more than a coincidence that I was both a synaesthete and a super, and which parts of the brain might be atypical in both. I hadn’t read the human interest story in The West about a Perth citizen who had been diagnosed with Benson’s, and felt curious about how the description of that type of dementia sounded like the opposite of skills that were superior or associated with synaesthesia in myself and kin. I must have forgotten about the content of the 2008 New Scientist article, if I had ever read it at all, because it would have been the ribbon which I could have used to wrap up my package of ideas neatly. Curiosity can be rewarded, even if it takes a couple of coins before the penny drops.


If this is some kind of test…..

…I honestly don’t see how anyone could fail it. Seriously?


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

New paper about study of face processing in developmental prosopagnosia on oxytocin

The paper is open access, so you don’t need to pay to read the whole thing. Is “face processing” the same thing as “face memory” or “face recognition”? When I’ve got more time I’ll have a good look at this study and see. I have noted that this is a quite small study (10 DPs, 10 controls), so let’s not get too excited about the findings.


Two bits of interesting information about the Cambridge Face Memory Test can be found within this paper.  The authors advise that some people with developmental prosopagnosia can achieve a normal score on the CFMT by using “effective compensatory strategies”. I’m curious about how that is done, because I thought the CFMT was pretty much cheat proof. It is also revealed that two new versions of the CFMT were created for this study.

I plan to write more about this paper but right now my garden requires attention. And after that the turquoise coastline lined with fine white sand near where we live will require attention.


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