Tag Archives: University of East London

Do you speak German?

If you can understand German and wish to learn more about super-recognition and policing you will probably find this video highly educational. It’s pretty interesting even if you have to guess at the commentary. One bit of English that I did pick out was the statement that “Men are better than machines”. Super-recognizer women can be pretty sharp too. It appears that this video shows a study by Dr Josh Davis of the police super-recognizer Idris Bada using eye-tracker technology. The video also apparently features testing of a super-recognizer named Simone by Dr Ashok Jansari. Thanks to Planetopia (German TV show) and Dr Josh Davis for making this available.

Super-Recognisers on Planetopia (German TV) featuring Dr Josh P Davis…. YouTube Published October 2012.
http://youtu.be/F3NhZUTWPno

Super-recognizers, superrecognisers, superrecognition, super-recognisers, superrecognizers, super-recognition, whatever: a collection of studies, reading, viewing and tests

Published and Unpublished Research About Super-recognizers

Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 2009 Apr;16(2):252-7. http://pbr.psychonomic-journals.org/content/16/2/252.full.pdf   This is the study that launched the concept of the super-recognizer in 2009. One of the researchers who wrote this paper has the opposite neurological condition – prosopagnosia.

Russell, Richard, Yue, Xiaomin, Nakayama, Ken and Tootell, Roger B. H.  Neural differences between developmental prosopagnosics and super-recognizers. Journal of Vision. August 6, 2010 vol. 10 no. 7 article 582 doi: 10.1167/10.7.582 http://www.journalofvision.org/content/10/7/582.short Abstract only available. Prosopagnosics had smaller fusiform face areas than the super-recognizers.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., Evans, R. and Neville, M. (2012) Facial identification from CCTV: investigating predictors of exceptional performance amongst police officers. In: European Association of Psychology and Law 2012, 10-13 Apr 2012, Nicosia, Cyprus. (Unpublished)  http://gala.gre.ac.uk/8462/  This paper was presented at a conference, with authors apparently including Dr Josh Davis and Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville. A lengthy and interesting abstract is openly available but the full paper has restricted access. I have not read full paper. See also below.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K. & Evans, R. (2013). Facial identification from CCTV: Investigating predictors of exceptional face recognition performance amongst police officers. Manuscript submitted for publication. This citation was taken from the list of reference in a 2013 article in The Psychologist.

Richard Russell, Garga Chatterjee, Ken Nakayama Developmental prosopagnosia and super-recognition: No special role for surface reflectance processing.  Neuropsychologia 50 (2012) 334– 340. http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/Russell_etal_2012.pdf

Hoflinger, Laura Hirnforschung – Superhelden aus dem Museum. Der Spiegel. Volume 11 2012 p.129-131. Article in German, an English translation can be downloaded free in PDF form from Superrecognizers website: http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/  This article in a popular German magazine reports on the 2011-2012 study of super-recognizers done by Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at UEL, recruiting study subjects from visitors the the Science museum in London. This study has not yet been published in a science journal, but according to a 2013 article by Jansari and other researchers it is being perpared for publication.

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., and Jansari, A. I never forget a face. Psychologist. October 2013. 26(10), 726-729. http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2347 Essential reading on the subject of super-recognizers. Covers the history of the concept of the super-recognizer, use of supers in UK police and summarizes studies of supers including the original 2009 study and studies by Davis and by Jansari which have yet to be published as journal papers. Lots of interesting info from unpublished and published studies, speculation about what causes super-recognition, the prevalence of super-recognition and whether the ability is generalised to higher ability in other types of visual identification, and discussion of the definition of super-recognition and potential for effective and deliberate use of supers in working roles. This article/paper is in an edition of this professional journal titled “The age of the superhuman” which has other material in it about superrecognition and memory superiority.)

Bobak, Anna, Bate, Sarah and Parris, Ben Group differences in the scanning of faces: Insights from ‘super-recognizers’, developmental prosopagnosia and individuals with typical face memory. CogDev 2013: Joint Annual Conference of the BPS Cognitive and Developmental Sections, University of Reading, 4-6 Sept 2013. p.77-78.  http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/pcls/COGDEV2013FINAL.pdf  “The current work investigates the eye-movement patterns during face study and recognition in super-recognizers, individuals with developmental prosopagnosia and matched control participants.” The researchers reportedly found a clear relationship between superiority in face recognition ability (as expressed by membership of either of the three categories of subjects) and looking at the eyes relatively more of the time than looking at the mouth, during learning and also in recognition phases of the task.

Russell, Richard ???? An article about super-recognizers by Caroline Williams published in 2012 in New Scientist magazine claimed that Russell and his research team have done an fMRI study of super-recognizers and the paper was due for publication in late 2012. Assistant Prof. Russell was quoted as saying that supers “seem to be using their brains somewhat differently”. Can’t wait to read this paper.

“Sparrow 2010” ????? This study is mentioned in a discussion of super-recognizers at the web page of the face-recognition research team at the University of East London “The first research in the UK to address this phenomenon was undertaken as part of an MSc project at UEL producing very promising corroborative findings (Sparrow, 2010). ” http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/face-recognition/ I have not been able to find publication details of this study and I think it remains unpublished. A researcher by the name S. S. Sparrow has had other papers published in the area of autism and face perception. Dr Ashok Jansari was quoted in a 2013 article in The Psychologist in a piece about super-recognizer Moira Jones in the Digest section that “I set up an MSc project to look for super-recognisers in 2010 and have been exploring the phenomenon ever since.”

Tests Which Can be Used to Identify Super-recognizers

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 participantsNeuropsychologia 44 (2006) 576–585. http://visionlab.harvard.edu/members/ken/Ken%20papers%20for%20web%20page/137neuropsychologiaDuchaine2006.pdf  This is the study that validated the test of face memory that has become the “gold standard”, and which is used to identify super-recognizers

Are you ready to find out if you may be a super recogniser? https://greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9ZVm6G3McDma37D  A three-minute test from Dr Josh Davis, the University of Greenwich and Qualtrics.

Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. 60 Minutes. CBS News. March 18, 2012.http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402555n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing

Television News and Current Affairs Reports About Super-recognizers and Face Recognition

London police using crime-fighting “super recognizers” official. Reporter Mark Phillips. CBS News. Dailymotion. Publication date November 12th 2013. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x173o5e_london-police-using-crime-fighting-super-recognizers_news   An American report on the use of super-recognizers in London policing. Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville explains how inadequate computer facial recognition was found to be compared with results from police supers. PC Gary Collins and researcher Dr Josh Davis are also interviewed, and super-recognizer police doing identification work are shown. It is revealed that tests are being developed for recruiting super-recognizers into a police force in London.

Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. 60 Minutes. CBS News. March 18, 2012.http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7402555n&tag=segementExtraScroller;housing

Comments on: Are you a “super-recognizer”? Take a test. http://www.cbsnews.com/8601-504803_162-57399111.html?assetTypeId=41&blogId=10391709&tag=postComments;commentWrapper

Face Blindness. Reporter – Lesley Stahl, Producer – Shari Finkelstein, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Broadcast March 18th 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57399118/face-blindness-when-everyone-is-a-stranger/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

Super-recognisers (The One Show, BBC 1 Scotland): Dr Josh P Davis….  YouTube. Broadcast on BBC1 on 9th April 2013. Uploaded by Dr Josh P. Davis, copyright owned by BBC1 Scotland. http://youtu.be/PuPfQ8UZTGQ In this clip from The One Show Dr Michael Mosley interviews super-recognizer policeman Gary Collins and super-recognition researcher Dr Josh Davis.

Police super-recognisers. reporter Sharon Thomas London Tonight. London Regional News. ITV. Tue Feb 28 2012  http://www.itnsource.com/en/jp/shotlist/ITN/2012/02/28/T28021245/?v=0&a=1 See it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/7QA4ih5u-vk PC Gary Collins from the Metropolitan Police and researcher Dr Josh Davis were interviewed.

Super-Recognisers on Planetopia (German TV) featuring Dr Josh P Davis…. YouTube Published October 2012.
http://youtu.be/F3NhZUTWPno  Also published here:  http://youtu.be/7KxqnaTZCOo An interesting video of a special report about super-recognizers on a German TV show in German.

Dr Josh P. Davis http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3rErlc6ayyZb1ROLvPQPtA?feature=watch YouTube channel of this researcher.

Radio Stories About Super-recognizers

Hammond, Claudia Super recognizers. BBC Radio 4. first broadcast 25 Jan 2010 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00q3fbv

Super-recognizer Researchers’ Web Pages and Websites

Superrecognizers. http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/ A website of Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at the University of East London

Face-Recognition Research Team, UEL School of Psychology http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/face-recognition/ Dr Jansari is the team leader

http://www.joshpdavis.org.uk/#!news/mainPage news page at website of Dr Josh P. Davis of the University of Greenwich

Social Perception Lab, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/index.html  Superrecognition authority and prosopagnosia researcher Assoc. Prof. Brad Duchaine is the PI at this lab.

Richard Russell http://public.gettysburg.edu/~rrussell/index.html  Website of face perception researcher Richard Russell Assistant Professor of Psychology Gettysburg College Psychology Department

Academic Book Chapter About Super-recognizers Scheduled for publication in 2014:

Valentine, T., & Davis, J.P. (Editors). Forensic Facial Identification. Wiley Blackwell.  (Authors will be Dr Josh P Davis from University of Greenwich and Professor Tim Valentine from Goldsmiths, University of London)

Popular non-fiction book apparently written by a British super-recognizer police officer:

Officer “A” The Crime Factory: The Shocking True Story of a Front-Line CID Detective. Mainstream Publishing, 5 April 2012. This book was published under a nom de plume or pen name, but some sources give Andy Jennings as the author’s name. This is a quite sensationalist account of a now-retired UK police undercover detective’s career experiences while working in Australia for the WA Police Force (WAPOL). This book includes many descriptions of blunders and inadequacies of WAPOL. There has been debate among readers about how much of this book is fiction. A passage on page 12 suggests that the author is a super-recognizer and there is discussion on page 53 of what it is like to have a “photographic memory”. I have written about this book here. 

Reddit discussion about a super-recognizer and a prosopagnosic who are in a relationship

MyNameIs BrookeToo I am a faceblind girl dating a super-recognizer. AUsA. Reddit. Discussion started March 25th 2012. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/rcgh8/i_am_a_faceblind_girl_dating_a_superrecognizer/  A fascinating and long discussion in which a prosopagnosic lady using the name MyNameIs BrookeToo and her super-recognizer boyfriend using the name Shandog answer many questions.

Science Journal, Magazine, Science News and Press Articles About Super-recognizers

Rutherford, Pam Never forgetting a face. BBC News. January 25th 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8474827.stm

Grimston, Jack Eagle-Eye of the Yard can spot rioters by their ears.  Sunday Times, The, 20.11.2011, p12,13-12,13, 1; Language: EN Section: News Edition: 01. EBSCOhost Accession number 7EH53940939 http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/papers/Supers.pdf  A substantial article but not easy to obtain in full text

Hoflinger, Laura Hirnforschung – Superhelden aus dem Museum. Der Spiegel. Volume 11 2012 p.129-131. Article in German, an English translation can be downloaded free in PDF form from Superrecognizers website: http://superrecognizers.squarespace.com/ This article in a popular German magazine reports on the 2011-2012 study of super-recognizers done by Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at UEL, a study which to my knowledge has not yet been published in a science journal.)

Williams, Caroline Face savers. New Scientist. 15 September 2012 no.2882 pages 36-39.   online title: ‘Super-recognisers’ have amazing memory for faces. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528821.500-superrecognisers-have-amazing-memory-for-faces.html Worth a read. Caroline Williams has also written an article about prosopagnosia for this magazine. I have found one letter by Maryse Palemans in response to the above article, published in October 2012 in the magazine, in which Maryse recounted how a super-recognizer father surprised a policeman met 20 years earlier by recognizing him, an amusing reversal of the usual theme of police super-recognizers identifying members of the public. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628861.200-ello-ello-ello.html

How to recognise the super-recognisers. British Psychological Society. August 30th 2012. http://www.bps.org.uk/news/how-recognise-super-recognisers

(a short discussion of research by Davis, Lander and Evans.)

Davis, J.P. Super-recognisers in the police: Exceptional at face recognition, highly meticulous or viewing the right CCTV footage at the wrong time – for the criminal? University of Kent Research Seminar Series. February 2013.    http://media.wix.com/ugd/81aef3_e5f728b80964b0a3e805181574b2b248.pdf

(an abstract of a seminar which apparently was not presented)

Storr, Will Human image banks: meet the Met’s ‘Super recognisers’. Telegraph. March 26th 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9942759/Human-image-banks-meet-the-Mets-Super-recognisers.html

(A substantial article about the work of police super-recognizer Idris Bada and other police supers. DCI Mick Neville interviewed. PC Martin Lotriet also identified as a police super. Dr Josh Davis interviewed, and his surname misspelt.)

‘Super recognisers’ turn gaze on Carnival. Metropolitan Police: Total Policing. August 21st 2013.  http://content.met.police.uk/News/Super-recognisers-turn-gaze-on-Carnival/1400019306715/1257246745756

(A brief article in a police publication. Number of identified supers in the Metropolitan Police given as 180. Includes the interesting claim that super police officers can remember not only faces but also names, birth dates and other details of offenders, which highlights the fact that memory is based in the initial encoding of information, which may be limited or detailed.)

Gaidos, Susan Familiar faces. Science News.  Web edition August 23rd 2013, Print edition September 7th 2013. Volume 184 Number 5 p.16. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/352687/description/Familiar_faces

(Science News is the “Magazine of the Society for Science & the Public”. A substantial article. Julian Lim, Carrie Shanafelt and Ajay Jansari (brother of super-recognizer researcher Dr Ashok Jansari) identified as super-recognizers. Researchers interviewed include Bradley Duchaine, Ashok Jansari, Irving Biederman, Nancy Kanwisher, Josh P. Davis and Joe DeGutis. Interesting info about possible directions of future research.)

Taylor, Matthew Police ‘super recognisers’ to keep watch over Notting Hill carnival. Guardian. August 24th 2013.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/23/police-super-recognisers-notting-hill-carnival

(An article about plans for the huge upcoming Notting Hill Carnival in England, including the planned first ever significant use of (police) super-recognizers to monitor a live event. Chief Superintendent Mick Johnson from the Metropolitan Police interviewed. Police super Patrick O’Riordan interviewed.)

Perry, Susan ‘Super recognizers’: People who never forget a face. MinnPost. August 29th 2013.  http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2013/08/super-recognizers-people-who-never-forget-face

(Science News article by Gaidos summarized. Use of supers by UK police discussed. Research by Dr Isabel Gauthier on use of face recognition brain areas for specialist visual ID of classes of objects is discussed.)

Buckland, Danny Police officers’ superhuman ability to recognise faces is being used to fight crime. Express. September 1st 2013.  http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/426014/Police-officers-superhuman-ability-to-recognise-faces-is-being-used-to-fight-crime

(includes photo of Metropolitan Police super-recognizers Paul Hyland, Kieran Grant and Patrick O’Riordan. The use of supers by The Met during the Notting Hill Carnival described. Police supers and super-recognition researcher Dr Ashok Jansari interviewed and asserts the superiority of humans over technology in face recognition.)

Cheng, Maria, Keaten, Jamey, Associated Press Don’t I know you? If London police’s super recognizers have met you before, the answer is yes. Canada.com September 27th 2013.  http://www.canada.com/health/Dont+know+London+polices+super+recognizers+have+before+answer/8965531/story.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+canwest%2FF67+(canada.com+Body+and+Health)

(“Associated Press Writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report from Paris.” Police super-recognizer Paul Hyland discussed. Use of Met police supers at Notting Hill Carnival described. Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville gives figures for achievements of police super-recognizers versus a facial recognition program showing vast inferiority of the technology. Opinions from legal experts about use of supers as expert witnesses is recounted, critical view from privacy advocate recounted, and use of supers in obtaining search warrants discussed. Major super-recognition researchers interviewed. Dr Josh Davis discusses plans for more research and a new test. Dr Brad Duchaine claims supers are superior to technology.)

AP/Cheng, Maria London Police Use Super Recognizers to Fight Crime. Time. September 27th 2013.  http://world.time.com/2013/09/27/london-police-use-super-recognizers-to-fight-crime/#ixzz2hkafR9rC

(same as above)

Cheng, Maria / AP Super Recognizers Used By London Police To Fight Crime. Huffington Post. September 27th 2013.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/27/super-recognizers_n_4002839.html

(same as above)

Jaslow, Ryan London police using 200 super-recognizers: What makes them “super”?. CBS News. September 27th 2013.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57605067/london-police-using-200-super-recognizers-what-makes-them-super/

(Superrecognition researcher Prof. Richard Russell interviewed, estimates super-recognizers are 1 in 1,000.)

Camber, Rebecca The man who NEVER forgets the face: How Scotland Yard’s elite squad of 200 ‘super recognisers’ can spot a suspect in a crowd. MailOnline. Daily Mail. September 27th 2013.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2435043/Scotland-Yards-elite-squad-200-super-recognisers-forget-face.html#ixzz2gFQzxiVF

(similar to the AP article but shorter and with interesting photos.)

AP London police use super recognizers to fight crime. Times of India. September 28th 2013.  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/London-police-use-super-recognizers-to-fight-crime/articleshow/23191190.cms

(Same article as one by Cheng, Keaten and AP)

Cheng, Maria, Associated Press Super recognisers help Scotland Yard fight crime. National. September 27th 2013.  http://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/super-recognisers-help-scotland-yard-fight-crime

(similar to other articles)

AP London police use super recognisers to fight crime. Gulf News. September 27th 2013.  http://gulfnews.com/news/world/london-police-use-super-recognisers-to-fight-crime-1.1236204

(similar to other articles)

Cheng, Maria, Associated Press Don’t I know you? London police squad of elite super recognizers a new concept. Windsor Star. September 28th 2013.  http://www.windsorstar.com/know+London+police+squad+elite+super+recognizers+concept/8971850/story.html

(appears to be an edited version of AP story)

McFarland, Sam Digest: We meet people who have or research ‘super’ abilities. Psychologist. Volume 26 Part 10 October 2013. p.716-717.

http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2345

(Interesting brief piece of autobiographical writing by super-recognizer Moira Jones about her ability and how it has been useful in her past work in retail. Also comments by researcher Dr Ashok Jansari summarizing the span of his research on supers which includes recruiting Jones as a study subject. Also in the same issue a substantial article about super-recognizers. )

Davis, J.P., Lander, K., and Jansari, A. I never forget a face. Psychologist. October 2013. 26(10), 726-729. http://www.thepsychologist.org.uk/archive/archive_home.cfm?volumeID=26&editionID=231&ArticleID=2347

(Essential reading on the subject of super-recognizers. Covers the history of the concept of the super-recognizer, use of supers in UK police and summarizes studies of supers including the original 2009 study and studies by Davis and by Jansari which have yet to be published as journal papers. Lots of interesting info from unpublished and published studies, speculation about what causes super-recognition, the prevalence of super-recognition and whether the ability is generalised to higher ability in other types of visual identification, and discussion of the definition of super-recognition and potential for effective and deliberate use of supers in working roles. This article/paper is in an edition of this professional journal titled “The age of the superhuman” which has other material in it about superrecognition and memory superiority.)

Bremer, Bruce Some London police are “super-recognizers”. Law Enforcement Today. October 5th 2013. http://lawenforcementtoday.com/2013/10/05/some-london-police-are-%E2%80%9Csuper-recognizers%E2%80%9D/

(A brief article from a US police publication confirming that the use of supers by the police force in London is currently unique in the world. Also see the detailed clarifying comment by Mick Neville.)

Jarrett, Christian Day 2 of Digest super Week: meet a super-recogniser. BPS Research Digest. October 8th 2013.  http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/day-2-of-digest-super-week-meet-super.html

(appears to be the same as the piece in The Psychologist by Sam McFarland about Moira Jones)

If you know of any substantial item that should be in this list but isn’t, please let me know in a comment.

Another super-recognizer test, just a wee little one

Maybe this is the super-recognizer test which lots of my recent blog readers were looking for. You don’t need to be logged on to Facebook to do it. It appears to be the creation of the UK face recognition researcher Dr Ashok Jansari and his team at the University of East London and it is presented by the UK TV show Hidden Talent. I had a go at this test and got a score in the normal, not super-recognizer range. It is a tricky test, requiring the person doing the test to identify faces seen for only seconds in two quite different emotional and visual contexts. The test is designed so that non-face elements of a person’s appearance such as hair cannot be used to identify, thus it is a true test of face recognition and can’t be cheated by using memory for other elements, and this test also it isn’t just a test of photograph recognition, which is a criticism that can be made of some other tests that only use one photo of each face in the test, with photos often including hair and other background elements. One good thing about the test is that it includes faces of both sexes, which possibly makes it a more realistic measure, while some tests of face memory used by university researchers include only male faces, including the respected Cambridge Face Memory Test. People taking this test are required to memorise faces shown from a particular angle and displaying a particular emotional expression, and are later required to identify some of these memorized faces shown in a different angle and/or a different emotional expression. This might seem like a realistic way to test face recognition but I doubt that it is, because in real-life situations even if we only meet a person for minutes or seconds we usually get the opportunity to memorize the appearance of a face across some kind of range of angles and expressions. This is not the same situation as being required to recognize a face across a range of angles and expressions. In this test I think the phase of face memorization is limited compared to real-life situations of face memorization. If the difference between a natural super-recognizer and a normal recognizer lies in the richness of the encoding of the memories of faces, then this test might not be fit to measure this. I believe the fairly artificial limtation of the memorization phase is one of this test’s flaws, and in this respect it reminds me a lot of the second test of face recognition which I was given to do when I volunteered as a research subject in an Australian university in 2011. I don’t know the official name of that test and I was never informed of my score in that test. In that test I was required to memorize Chinese-looking male faces in profile and identify them displayed in a full-face angle, and it just didn’t feel like face recognition. I know that any success that I had in that test was probably due to employing conscious strategies for face matching (such as making conscious note of facial features and matching skin colours), which most certainly isn’t natural face recognition (which is a completely automatic and unconscious process, rather like synaesthesia).

One could also definitely criticise this test for not being large or long enough, and thus more likely to give results biased by chance. There are only 11 faces presented for memorization, to be picked out of a set of 15 faces presented in the second part of the test. Compare this with the short version of the Cambridge Face Memory Test with a maximum possible score of 72, and it’s clear that this test is not a lot more than a bit of fun. One definite problem with this test is that I found that I could get a score in the normal range using a very simple strategy without even looking at the faces. I’m wondering how anyone could get a score in the low range, and this test appears to have no value for identifying prosopagnosia. A criticism that could be levelled at all tests of face recognition or face memory is that they don’t reflect real life face recognition situations. When we meet people, even if it is just for a few seconds, we usually see a moving, speaking image, not a still image, and in that movement we see not just a face from a range of angles but also the accompanying body language, probably a range of different emotional expressions, and also the very individual ways in which a person moves their face and body. When you meet a person you see the life and the personality in their face and body, not just a static piece of meat, and that is more memorable than a still image of a face. I’m wondering why face recognition researchers haven’t come up with a test that uses video clips rather than still photographs. It seems like an obvious way to make a face recognition test more like a test of what people need to be able to do in real life.

Super recogniser. https://apps.facebook.com/hiddentalentshow/fb/tests/recognizer

Dr Ashok Jansari’s search for super-recognizers finds seven – article in Der Spiegel

According to the English translation of this article, which is available through the Superrecognizers website belonging to Dr Jansari and his team at the University of East London, the search for super-recognizers in London that was conducted late last year into early 2012 yielded 7 super-recognizers out of the 725 people who participated in the testing study at the Science Museum in London, including a surprising find that the brother of Dr Jansari is one of the seven. How strange is that? So, we know that one of the seven super-recognizers is male. What are the genders of the others? I don’t think it says in this article.

Also of interest in the article is information about the elite group of super-recognizer police in London’s Metropolitan Police, with interviews with super-super-recognizer Idris Bada and Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville.

Hoflinger, Laura Hirnforschung – Superhelden aus dem Museum. Der Spiegel. Volume 11 2012 p.129-131.  http://www.superrecognizers.com/storage/Der%20Spiegel_super-recognizers_March2012.pdf

An English translation can be accessed from here:  http://www.superrecognizers.com/in-the-news/

This is a quote from the translation:

“The neuropsychologist Jansari suspects that his brother and the other super-recognizers process faces in a rather holistic way; they do not focus as much on single parts of the face, like the nose, mouth or eyes.”

If I’m a super-recognizer, then I don’t know if this idea of super-recognizers having more holistic perception with less focus on individual elements explains the difference between us and people with normal levels of ability. I do very much notice individual elements of faces, consciously and unconsciously, as well as recognizing whole faces in a way that feels automatic and uncontrolled. I will notice if different people have mouths or ears that look similar and also distinctive. I recall that a boy I knew when I was a teen and he was a child had a William Shatner mouth, which is a quite an unusual type of mouth where the upper lip looks the larger. Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela seem to have very similar smiles and lower faces, but not identical faces. I think the difference between a super-recognizer and a regular recognizer might be that the former does both holisitc and detailed perception well and also in a well-integrated manner. I believe enhanced brain wiring akin to synaesthesia might be the basis of this enhanced integration of both modes of perception. I suspect that an emphasis on perceiving faces feature-by-feature might be more characteristic of poor face recognition than good face recognition. In the recent CBS 60 Minutes story about prosopagnosia and super-recognizers the prosopagnosic artist Chuck Close was asked to identify the faces of some famous people. He did manage to identify some of the faces and he explained how he did it. He identified Jay Leno from his very unusual chin and picked Tiger Woods from his lips.

It is interesting to see for the first time researchers giving estimates of how common (or rare) super-recognizers might be in the population at large. The seven in seven hundred and twenty-five people tested in the London study suggests that super-recognizers are made by mother nature at a rate of just over 1% of the population, while Dr Jansari’s team give an estimate of 2% for super-recognizers at their website http://www.superrecognizers.com/about/  I guess it all depends on definitions and cut-off points, which are arbitrary. At levels of one or two percent super-recognizers are rare enough to constitute some kind of elite, worth identifying or recruiting if the trait is found to have some value or utility, but are also not so rare that anyone can dismiss the possibility that one could encounter or find a super-recognizer in their community or workplace or social circle. Perhaps super-recognizers should form some kind of association or society or club. The future is anyone’s guess, as this area of scientific inquiry is shiny and new, and we are dealing with a concept that is only a few years old.

At the beginning of the Der Spiegel article there are six photographs of famous people when they were children, which can be used as a mini Before They Were Famous Test if you don’t scroll down too soon and see who they are. How many of them are you able to identify? I picked three of them correctly, and couldn’t guess at the others who were not unknown to me but weren’t hugely familiar either, as I’m not as European as the magazine is. I had seen the photo of the little boy with the big hat before and knew who it is. The thing that really struck me about this photo is the apparent abnormality with the child’s eyes. They don’t match – one is much darker than the other, which seems rather worrying. Some people naturally have irises of different colours, but it isn’t a good thing if pupil sizes don’t match.

I’ve not mentioned before that there are three different types of things to look at which seem to catch my eye in ways that are a maybe bit extreme or distracting. These things are faces (animals and human), cars travelling at a speed of around 40 KPH (especially the wheels), and eyes. I simply cannot abide the sight of eyes that point in different directions, even in the slightest. Glass eyes are the worst, and lazy eyes make me feel ill, even if the owner of them is the nicest person in the world. And some apparently healthy and normal people have eyes that seem to be very slightly out. This seems to happen more often in people whose eyes protrude slightly, for whatever reason, and this type of thing seems to be unusually common among a particular ethnic group from the South Pacific. Another eye issue that sets me on edge is eyes with pupils that don’t look right, because one looks bigger in one eye than the other, or they both seem to be too dilated, bringing to mind the image of a pet cat in an aggressive mood. Have you ever read the classic short story The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe? A bad eye can certainly be quite a distraction, but it isn’t only eye imperfection which catches my eye. I can also become quite distracted by the perfection of good eyes in some circumstances. Newborn babies are such lovely little things with soft, perfect skin, but they are quite limited in things that they can do to express themselves physically. Their limb movements seem random and quite uncontrolled, but the way their eyes move is a display of how perfectly a baby has been put together by nature, because even though the baby might look around in an apparently uncontrolled manner, his or her eyes will usually match perfectly in their movements. This I find fascinating, in a way that seems to owe more to instinct than to intellect. Maybe all mothers find the eyes of young babies fascinating in a way that is strangely compelling. I’m just glad that I don’t live on an island in the South Pacific.

Study still going

(edit April 2012 – as far as I know this study ended in January 2012)

It looks like the super-recognizer study held at the Science Museum in London is still going, but scheduled to wind up soon. I believe the researchers from the University of East London hope to find study participants who are superrecognizers, so if you are in that area and suspect that you might be one, you might want to make inquiries.

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/events/demonstrations/Live_Science_faces.aspx?eventId={BD494D12-C6FB-4A57-8A2B-28B1567C3702}

Links related to Face-recognition research team at Uni of East London, Dr Ashok Jansari and their study of super recognizers

There is quite a bit of info here about prosopagnosia and super-recognizers and the University of East London research team:

Face-recognition Research Team http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/face-recognition/

Their study in which they hope to find some super-recognizers:

Superrecognizers http://www.superrecognizers.com/

Their Facebook page:

Face Recognition Research at UEL http://www.facebook.com/Face.Recognition.Research.at.UEL

Info from the Science Museum about the superrecognizers study:

Who am I? Live Science – Familiar Faces http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/events/demonstrations/Live_Science_faces.aspx

Dr Ashok Jansari at Twitter:

Ashok Jansari @ SuperRecognizer  http://twitter.com/superrecognizer

YouTube video with interview with Dr Jansari:

Dr Ashok Jansari on BBC The One Show talking about Prosopagnosia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5Hooty5YMo

YouTube channel of Dr Jansari?

Superrecognizers  http://www.youtube.com/user/Superrecognizers?feature=watch

This website appears to be under construction and associated with this research team:

Name That Face  http://namethatface.org/

Super-recognizer study being conducted at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, and you are invited!

(edit – as far as I know this experiment ended in January 2012. If you are interested in super-recognizers it might still be worth a look at the link given below.)

Cognitive neuroscience researchers from the University of East London including Dr Ashok Jansari are apparently inviting anyone who suspects that they might be a super-recognizer (and can get to London) to participate in a scientific study. I live in Australia, so unfortunately I can’t participate in this study myself and I can’t personally comment much about this study beyond what anyone can read at the website for the study, but it looks to me like this is a genuine thing and I’m very interested to know what these researchers might find as a result of their study.

I’m spitting chips because it looks as though they might be using the Before They Were Famous test in this study, and I’ve been trying since September last year to gain access to this study to find out for certain whether I fall into the category of super-recognizer. It’s a heck of a long distance from Western Australia to London. If it weren’t so far I’d be there in a flash!

If you suspect that you might have below-average ability in face recognition, or prosopagnosia, maybe this live, in-person study in London might be worth looking into, I’m not sure. A good alternative might be looking at the Faceblind.org website which is run by prosopagnosia researchers at Harvard University and Univesity College in London, and maybe trying a free online test of face memory, and contacting the people at Faceblind.org if you identify a problem.

Superrecognizers (study in London)  http://www.superrecognizers.com/

Faceblind.org   http://www.faceblind.org/index.html

Super-recognizer test? Forget it mate!

I’ve noticed that quite consistently searches that lead people to this blog appear to be people searching for a test relevant to being a super-recognizer, which is a person who has an elite level of ability in recognizing faces, a most useful skill in many ways, and a skill that would be relevant to a number of jobs. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint anyone who is hoping to gain access to a super-recognizer test, but the fact is that I only know of one test that I know enough about it to say that it could decisively separate super-recognizers from simply good face recognizers, and I have been unsuccessfully been trying to gain access to that test since September of 2010. The test is the Before They Were Famous Test (BTWF), and it was one of the two face recognition tests that were used in the study that was written-up in the science journal paper that launched the concept of the super-recognizer in 2009. I’d love to get to do the BTWF Test, even though there would most likely be subtle cultural differences that might impair my performance on that test. I believe the BTWF Test is a test that uses the faces of celebrities, and I’m sure it was created outside of Australia, and so I would assume that those celebrities would not include any Australian celebrities, and I am an Australian. Nevertheless, I was keen to have a go at this test. I was so keen that I volunteered as a study subject at a local Australian university’s psychology department to do some face recognition tests. To cut a long story short, I got to do two other tests, but not the BTWF Test, and I’m still many months later waiting to be told of the results of one of those tests. Just to explain my interest in face recognition – in 2010 I got a surprise after finding that I got perfect scores on the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT) and also the Famous Faces test, and then I realised that I could well be a super-recognizer. I’ve been messed around so much by Australian and overseas academics that I don’t think I’d trust them enough to do any further participation in research, and I think there is something strange about the way that I’ve been dealt with by researchers in the area of face recognition.

I find it a curious fact that of all of the researchers who I’ve told that I am a synaesthete and am willing to provide test results that show it and I also suspect that I’m a super-recognizer, not one, including the university researcher whom I’ve met first-hand, has asked to see any of my test results regarding face memory or synaesthesia. Anyone with some familiarity with the published literature about synaesthesia would surely figure that super-recognizing could well be another cognitive advantage associated with synaesthesia. Do face recognition researchers lack a basic knowledge of synaesthesia research, another area of the neuropsychology of sensory perception? Surely not. Perhaps I have misunderstood the nature of the work that university researchers do. Their job is to do highly structured research studies, with the aim of getting their reports of those studies published in science journals with a good reputation and status. I believe there is considerable pressure to achieve this and do it as often as possible. So perhaps one should not be surprised to find that researchers are only interested in non-academic, non-student people if they can fill the role of being a standardized study subject.

I believe that study subjects like me who do not conform to what appears to be the current scientific view of super-recognizers as “simply the high end of a broad distribution of face recognition ability” (Russell, Duchaine & Nakayama 2009), people like me who are synaesthetes and who score very high in tests of face recognition, are a threat to the current academic status quo, in which the conventional view is that atypical or abnormal brain structure or brain function is associated with deficits in face recognition, and good face recognition ability is taken to be a marker for normality and health and all things nice. A great many studies of face recognition have been inspired by the idea that poor ability to recognize faces and facial expressions are fundamental features of autism. Autism research is supposed to be very well-funded. Studies of face recognition that are promoted as research into the causes of autism would, I guess, attract funding. While not all autistic people are synaesthetes and not all synaesthetes are autistic, there does appear to be some type of link between autism and synaesthesia, so the idea that synaesthetes should be poor at face recognition would be consistent with the above theoretical framework. In fact, the idea that there might be a link between synaesthesia and prosopagnosia appears to be quite a common belief among academics and interested ordinary people. This is based on anecdotes and some very speculative early writing about synaesthesia. So finding a synaesthete super-recognizer who is also very good at identifying facial expressions could upset this apple cart. In any case, those nice red shiny apples seem to be destined for a bruising because of ideas that are being explored by some synaesthesia researchers who are contrasting rather than linking synaesthesia with poor face recognition and other agnosias (Mitchell 2011) or are finding connections between various types of synaesthesia and various types of enhanced perception (Banissy, Garrido et al 2011; Banissy, Walsh & Ward 2009).

The other test of face recognition that was used in the study described in Russell, Duchaine and Nakayama’s 2009 paper about super-recognizers was the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT), which comes in a short and a long form. Both the short and long form are used in that study. It appears that the long form of this test was created to measure a wider range of face recognition abilities, but as can easily be seen in the paper, the long form was quite a failure in this respect. Non-super-recognizers did not fall a long way behind super-recognizers in the CFMT Long Form that much more than they did in the CFMT Short Form. Basically, super-recognizers got perfect of near-perfect scores in the 72 question CFMT Short Form, which is freely available to do over the internet, but a couple of other study subjects also got close to perfect scores in the CFMT.

So, the only thing that I can recommend to anyone who wants to know if they are a super-recognizer is to have a crack at the CFMT, read about the experiences of super-recognizers, and you might also wish to consider whether you have synaesthesia or have any brain-based special abilities or talents such as perfect pitch or high IQ. The Synesthesia Battery is a test for a number of colour-related types of synaesthesia. And remember, the whole concept of the “super-recognizer” is a thing that some academics only recently came up with. I believe the official view of super-recognizers is that they (we?) are only the extreme end of a bell curve representing natural variation in one area of ability. I personally believe that super-recognizers are probably qualitatively different from others rather than merely being quantitatively different – I believe super-recognizer ability could be an effect of synaesthesia or local hyperconnectivity, but I still wouldn’t like to say at what cut-off point in test scores super-recognizers can be identified.

P.S. December 2011

It appears that the CFMT is no longer available from two of the websites that I have linked to, and the only freely available online access to the CFMT is probably through a research study done by researchers at the MIT:  http://facetoface.mit.edu/   If you live in or near London then you might be able to go along to the superrecognizers study currently being conducted at the Science Museum by researchers from the Uni of East London and do some tests as study subjects:  http://www.superrecognizers.com/

I have tried contacting professional psychologists in WA who have private practices to see if any of them can offer access to any face recognition testing. I found a general lack of comprehension, and it appears that they generally haven’t heard of prosopagnosia, let alone super-recognizers. Apparently there is some face memory or face recognition test that is an element of an IQ test and/or vocational aptitude testing. I have not been given any details about this test or tests, and God only knows if it is of any value. There are a number of old face recognition tests, but it appears that the CFMT and the BTWF tests are the only ones that are cheat-proof and currently used by face recognition researchers. I’ve never heard of either of these tests being used as elements of vocational or IQ testing, but who knows?

The idea that superior face recognition ability could be important in employment is an idea that has been proven to be true in the case of police work, a documented example would be the elite squad of super-recognizer police officers in London’s Metropolitan Police force, which was the subject of an interesting article in the UK’s Sunday Times in November 2011. Despite the proven utility of superrecognizers in at least one important job, the idea that this is a valuable work skill appears to be an idea well ahead of our times here in sleepy Western Australia, where our time zone is two years behind the rest of the Anglophone world (except in mining). There is not only the issue that we are behind the times here, there is also the big issue of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias recognized in psychology “in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes”, to quote from Wikipedia. The Dunning-Kruger effect can also negatively affect capable people, in the opposite way “Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.” So incompetent people can have unjustified self-confidence while more capable people can under-estimate their relative superiority as a result of being ignorant or deceived about the actual level of ability of others. I would argue that the Dunning-Kruger effect is very applicable to face recognition ability. I’m sure there are many people with milder developmental prosopagnosia who don’t understand their disability, and I know myself that I never thought of myself as having superior face memory until I tried some online face recognition tests in the pursuit of any clue to the mystery of The Strange Phenomenon. I believe the full extent of the problem goes beyond not understanding one’s self. I believe that only a super-recognizer is able to understand the possibilities and advantages of this very specific type of superior visual processing. I’ve found that many people who I’ve spoken to about super-recognizers doubt that any human could perform better than current face recognition technology, an assumption that appears to be incorrect, and is probably based on ignorance. It should be clear to anyone that good face recognition ability is an essential requirement in policing and has uses in security and detective work, but I doubt that most people would guess that super-recognizing could have medical applications, can be more useful than current face recognition technology and might also have applications in tasks that involve identifying kinship relationships, possibly to do with tracing lost relatives or family history research. To independently realise all of this, a person would have to see what a super-recognizer sees, an experience that is denied to most people. If most people, including most psychologists, have no idea of the possible utility of super-recognizing, why would anyone bother testing for it or identifying it?

If you suspect that you might be a super-recognizer, and wish to have this tested and certified by a professional psychologist or have it verified by participating in university research done by a recognized expert in the field of face recognition, I hope you live in London. Your only other option appears to be taking a look at the MIT study, and taking a screen-shot print-out of any test results. Good luck!

References

Banissy, Michael J., Garrido, Lucia, Kusnir, Flor, Duchaine, Bradley, Walsh, Vincent & Ward, Jamie Superior Facial Expression, But Not Identity Recognition, in Mirror-Touch Synesthesia. Journal of Neuroscience. February 2, 2011, 31(5):1820-1824. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5759-09.2011 http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/31/5/1820

Banissy, Michael J., Walsh, Vincent & Ward, Jamie Enhanced sensory perception in synaesthesia. Experimental Brain Research. 2009 Jul;196(4):565-71. Epub 2009 Jun 17. http://www.springerlink.com/content/406581u3507un270/   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19533108

Grimston, Jack Eagle-Eye of the Yard can spot rioters by their ears. Sunday Times, The, 20.11.2011, p12,13-12,13, 1; Language: EN Section: News Edition: 01 EBSCOhost Accession number 7EH53940939 http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/  This interesting article is behind a paywall, so you might try EBSCOHost from your local piblic library.

Mitchell, Kevin J. Curiouser and curiouser: genetic disorders of cortical specialization. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development. 2011 Feb 4. [Epub ahead of print]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21296568?dopt=Abstract

Russell, Richard, Yue, Xiaomin, Nakayama, Ken and Tootell, Roger B. H.  Neural differences between developmental prosopagnosics and super-recognizers.Journal of Vision. August 6, 2010 vol. 10 no. 7 article 582 doi: 10.1167/10.7.582http://www.journalofvision.org/content/10/7/582.short

Russell R, Duchaine B, Nakayama K Super-recognizers: people with extraordinary face recognition ability. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.2009 Apr;16(2):252-7. http://pbr.psychonomic-journals.org/content/16/2/252.full.pdf

Wikipedia contributors Dunning–Kruger effect. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect&oldid=466983876

Tests

MIT’s Face to Face Online Study http://facetoface.mit.edu/

“Test My Memory” from Faceblind.org – used to offer the CFMT in the past http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/

“Test My Brain” – used to offer the CFMT in the past, could try the 5 minute “Famous Faces” test http://www.testmybrain.org/

BBC Science Face Memory Test – this test no substitute for the CFMT http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/tmt/

The Synesthesia Battery http://www.synesthete.org/

Further reading about my dealings with psychology researchers:

Science Week 2011 – The world of science and me in the past year   https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/science-week-2011-%E2%80%93-the-world-of-science-and-me-in-the-past-year/