Memory for faces

Good snippet on www.mindhacks.com today

Prosopagnosia is an inability to recognise faces. It most commonly occurs after brain injury, although this week’s New Scientist reports on a recently completed study on a type of inherited prosopagnosia, suggesting a genetic basis for face recognition.

The research was an international effort, led by husband and wife team, geneticists Thomas and Martina Gr¸ter. Notably, Thomas has a particular interest in this area, as he has prosopagnosia himself

What is it like having prosopagnosia ? For example, do faces seem strange or distorted to you?

Faces look perfectly normal, they just fade in my memory very quickly. I can recognize emotions as well as other people, maybe better.

Very interesting. Three points

1. I had never really thought of prosopagnosia in terms of normal perception of faces with weak to negligible memory trace. All the cognitive neuropsychology textbooks paint a much more cataclysmic picture of face being percieved as ‘flat and featureless’ or jumbled, confusing, etc. They, of course, are talking about acquired prosopagnosia but definitely seem to always be complete emphasis on the perceptual aspects of the system. It is interesting to me how easily I overlook the role of memory in face/object/etc recognition.

2. from anecdotal evidence I think it is fair to say that face recognition ability is on a spectrum in general population, so i’d like to hope any diagnostic measures they develop can capture this range of competances even at mild deficiency. most cog neuropsych test seem to have ‘normals’ performing at ceiling.

3. whatever they do find it will be at most a gene [necessary] for face recognition but not necessarily sufficient. in fact very far from it. obviously we know this it is always the bit that gets left out by journalists. Although I guess you might call it ‘the gene for not having prosopagnosia.’

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs BabyLaughter.net
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