Thursday, February 21, 2019

What Are Super-Recognizers?

I have a very embarrassing handicap: I am virtually unable to remember names or faces of people when I meet them.  There are people in my town to whom I have been introduced as many as seven times!  Each time I see them at a party or some local event, I smile, extend my hand for a handshake and introduce myself.  "Hi!  Nice to meet you.  My name is Nancy."  I am usually met with a slight jiggle in the eyes, an increased tightening of the mouth, and a flat, humorless acknowledgement like, "Yes, I know.  We've already been introduced several times..."  It is horribly embarrassing and makes me feel like an idiot - not to mention it makes other people think I am an arrogant snob. 

Yes, I have tried all those mnemonic devices to remember names.  I have, for years, been careful to repeat the person's name upon being introduced to them.  I repeat their names in my mind and try to imprint it on their face.  But I am simply hopeless.  Since I can't remember their faces, trying to match a name with a face is useless.  It has nothing to do with whether they are important to me or not.  It has to do with the fact that I simply can't remember their identity.  I often wonder how I survived several decades of being in charge of sales for my businesses and, at one point, attending up to 20 trade shows a year. 

If it were just names or just faces that I couldn't remember, then perhaps I would have a head start.  But both just evaporate. 

It's not just regular people.  I can't even recognize movie stars or United States presidents when I pass them on the street! (I have walked right by movie star Sylvester Stallone, rock star Mick Jagger and President Gerald Ford on the street and would never have known unless my friends hadn't jabbed me with their elbow and told me). Somehow these people just look different.  Either they are much smaller, taller, older, different hair, or whatever.  They just don't look like my memory of them.

While writing my book "Psychic Intuition: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask But Were Afraid to Know" (2012), I ran across a relatively rare neurological condition called  prosopagnosia - or, "face blindness."  People with this condition are absolutely unable to recognize faces.  The only way they can distinguish between people is if they have a beard, mustache, wear a hat, have a tattoo, or some other non-facial characteristic.  It suddenly occurred to me that I probably have a mild case of prosopagnosia.  I actually took an online test and scored high enough to indicate that I do suffer from this condition.  In some respects, it was at least reassuring that I wasn't just some idiot.  Moreover, it confirmed my pet theory to explain my deficiency - namely, that perhaps the facial recognition area of my brain that is hard-wired into everyone had been hijacked by other very important intellection or perceptual functions.

You can imagine my surprise when, today, I ran across an article stating the British law enforcement officials at Scotland Yard employed a certain type of high-performing individuals called "Super-Recognizers."  These people have a much higher than average ability to recognize the faces of people - even if they haven't seen them for many years or are looking at very fuzzy, low definition photos from security cameras. 

To me, this may represent yet another currently unidentified "sense" or "sensory ability" just like people known as "super tasters" (35 percent of women and 15 percent of men) who are able to experience tastes that are outside the "normal" range of taste for the average human being.  This includes tasting the capsaicin burn in chili peppers, the bitterness of quinine in tonic water, and a more pronounced salty taste in olives.  ("Psychic Intuition" p. 95).

It is also similar to a group of people who can literally see more colors than the average person.  These people are called  tetrachromatic, as opposed to trichromatic, because they have four (not three) color detecting cones in their retinas.  (See "Psychic Intuition" p.97)  They can see 100 million more shades of color than the average human being!  The vast majority of tetrachromatics are women (2-3 percent of all women). 

So, to return to my issue of "face-blindness" versus "super-recognizers" - I think that I must suffer from a sensory deficiency.  This is the place where - as I point out in my book - the senses interface with the mind/intellect.