Jun 18

Print this Post

Are YOU a Super-Recogniser?

Ready to test yourself? Are you one of those people who’ll easily recognise a face they have once seen?

Find out whether you possess the rare ability to recognise faces you’ve barely glimpsed. Scientists are only just beginning to understand why some people have the skill and how it works and how the police uses this ability to identify criminals. The article is full of expressions worth remembering. In addition, you can take this online test to see if you might qualify as a super-recogniser. Go on and enjoy!

“If you have experiences where you often recognise people out of context, that’s an indicator” says psychologist Richard Russell of Gettysburg College in Philadelphia, who first coined the term ‘super-recogniser’ in a paper he published in 2009. Russell became curious about super-recognisers in 2006, when he was at Harvard University studying prosopagnosics: people with very poor ability to recognise faces. He discovered it was a far more common affliction than he expected; about 2% of people he tested fell somewhere on the low end of the spectrum. “So I thought that suggested there were people on the other end of the scale too – with extraordinary abilities,” he says.

When he started looking, he found super-recognisers across the United States. One of his subjects, Jennifer Jarett, is a 44-year-old police misconduct investigator in New York City. Her first memory of her talent was when she was 15 and on a family vacation in Hawaii. “I spotted a man sitting a few rows ahead on our plane. I told my family he was famous and had been on a tonne of TV shows, like Murder She Wrote and the Bionic Woman. They just laughed at me because no one recognised him,” she says. Later that summer, the man she had spotted, Granville Van Dusen, played a bit part in the show Family Ties. “So it became a family joke. That’s when they realised I was unimpeachable when I recognised someone,” she laughs.

While scientists are still unclear what’s going on in the brains of recognisers like PC Collins, they do know that most facial recognition is processed the brain’s fusiform gyrus – a long, thin area in both the temporal and occipital lobes which also processes colour. Abnormalities in this region are associated with face blindness – the inability to recognise faces – and facial hallucinations. Evolutionary psychologists are particularly intrigued by super-recognisers, because faces provide more social clues than just identity – they relate to our understanding of the world. Newborn infants appear able to distinguish their mother from other women after two days, and some six-month-old babies show the capacity to recognise other faces. Those who are good at facial recognition tend to be extroverts and can establish trust more quickly.

In November 2011 Ash Jansari, a psychologist at the University of East London, conducted one of the largest ever studies of super-recognisers by recruiting more than 700 visitors to the Science Museum in London, ranging in age from 6 to 74. He used the same test that Russell used in his Harvard study – the Cambridge Face Memory Test. Only seven people scored two standard deviations above the average – the ‘super-recognition’ criterion – which suggested that roughly 1% of the population may be super-recognisers. Studies also found that they aren’t any better than average people at recognising things that aren’t faces, like flowers or chairs. “This suggests the brain uses a higher level of processing for face memory, compared to other visual memory tasks,” Jansari says. The research also showed that all human beings process faces in the same way – as a holistic unit, rather than as a collection of individual features.

Ready to test your brain? THEN CLICK HERE!

Still keen on knowing more about this topic? Read the whole article here.

Key Vocab

to coin a term: to give a name to a new concept (for the first time)

paper (in this context): a scientific article

to fall on the low end of the spectrum / of the scale: used when you compare two things: the one being small, the other one being

subject (in this context): a person who is part of / being studied in a research project

unimpeachable: very reliable, not able to be questioned

fusiform gyrus / lobes: parts of our brain: check them out here and here

being intrigued by something: being very interested in something (unusual, mysterious)

recognise (British spelling), recognize (US spelling): to identify

social clues: (here) information

to distinguish: to understand the difference between two things

to score: (here): to win / to get

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you like our website, share it with friends and colleagues. Thanks!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.euenglish.hu/2015/06/are-you-a-super-recogniser/

Switch to mobile version