A super-human ability to instantly recognise faces they barely know.
June 14, 2015 12:20 PM   Subscribe

The superpower police now use to tackle crime
Police officers with the rare ability to recognise faces they’ve barely glimpsed are helping identify criminals: take a test to find out if you share their talent.

Could you be a super-recogniser?
posted by andoatnp (103 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
11 out of 14. Starts off really easy but ramps up quick.
posted by Punkey at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2015


12/14, now if only I could remember anyone's name ...
posted by Devika at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


Ten. Sign me up.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2015


13/14. Did anyone else notice that the countdown timer started before the face picture had loaded? Made the last couple pics kinda tough to see for even a split second. maybe this was by design. (the one I missed was the very last one)
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2015


I found this very stressful and quit halfway through, so I'm gonna go with 'no.'
posted by obfuscation at 12:36 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heh, I used to not be able to recognize someone if they changed their hat, so I don't think I'll even bother.
posted by Joe Chip at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [19 favorites]


My wife is one of these people, we regularly joke that she could work for the FBI. In addition to the most bit-part celebrity sightings here are some very real examples: walking down the street and she's recognized someone who doesn't even live in our town and isn't one of our friends, because they were in the background of a friend's Facebook party photo ("Excuse me, are you from Montreal and friends with xyz...") She's successfully identified missing persons before, she recognizes if a film was shot in Canada because of the extras whom she's seen in TV commercials, and aging doesn't seem to matter, she's recognized mutual acquaintances on the bus that we haven't seen in 20 years and whom I couldn't recognize. The only thing that can stymie her super power is when someone wears sunglasses.
posted by furtive at 12:40 PM on June 14, 2015 [34 favorites]


Despite faring pretty well on this test, I think I have selective face blindness. I just watched Jurassic World on friday and I don't think I could pick Bryce Dallas Howard out of a lineup. No idea why. Some people's faces (even attractive ones, like Howard) refuse to stick in my brain.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 12:40 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


11/14, and yes, tremendously stressful.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:41 PM on June 14, 2015


White men.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


I have the opposite power, capable of failing to recognize even people I know well.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


His most memorable case, PC Collins says, was identifying a man called Stephen Prince who, during the riots, had broken into shops, robbed reporters of their cameras, stolen bikes, thrown petrol bombs at police and set fire to cars. In the riot footage, Prince had covered his face up with a red bandana and had a black woollen hat pulled low over his forehead. All you could see were his eyes. PC Collins and others spent days trying to track the man through the footage, searching for a moment when he pulled the bandana off, but there were no better shots. Still, PC Collins recognised him from the images in which he was heavily disguised.

“The last time I’d seen Prince was about six years earlier, but I was positive it was him. I knew it straightaway from his eyes. So we went to court,” PC Collins says. Prince was eventually found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison – one of the longest riot-related sentences.


I hope this guy was not convicted in a court of law based on this "superhuman" ability. I don't doubt that some people are really good at recognizing faces, but this seems like heresay evidence.
posted by three blind mice at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [17 favorites]


I demand that my brain's stubborn refusal ever to commit a face to memory be recognized as a superpower too.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


3 out of 14. You could put my husband and my mom in there and I might get them wrong. If I'm ever a witness to any kind of crime, my testimony is going to be "I think he was a guy? With hair? Or not?"
posted by artychoke at 12:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


6 out of 14. Which is better than I thought I would do.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:47 PM on June 14, 2015


9 of 14. I think I missed all the ones where you have to go from profile to head-on. If you ever want to rob a bank in front of me, just walk sideways.
posted by zeptoweasel at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hope this guy was not convicted in a court of law based on this "superhuman" ability. I don't doubt that some people are really good at recognizing faces, but this seems like heresay evidence.

I also wondered if there was more to this story. Did the suspect confess after they confronted him or did they match some circumstantial evidence to the suspect after they made the super-recogniser identification?
posted by andoatnp at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2015


I went in thinking I'd be terrible at this, but scored 12/14. Surprising.
posted by fifthrider at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2015


9 out of 14. The head-on to profile were super hard, and about halfway through I think I'd used up all the space in my head for faces. And I know I wouldn't've been able to remember any of the snapshots if the lineup hadn't come right away.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2015


10/14. I'm fairly good at it in real life, particularly with actors.

Funny: I recently dropped my amp off with a guy for repair. Never met him before but he is the guy everyone recommended for working on solid state gear. Literally looking in this guy's face for a moment made me completely, absolutely sure that it was one of the people from Slacker (S T E V E with a van) - may as well have been looking at my brother, I was so certain. I didn't say anything to him about it, though. Weirder conversation than I felt like initiating - instantly recognizing a guy for a two minute role 25 years later.

Google confirmed, later. Is that most self-parodically Austin thing ever, getting your amp repaired by a guy from Slacker?
posted by dirtdirt at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


7/14, which is much better than I thought I could do.
posted by jeather at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2015


True story: I once couldn't find my best friend in a restaurant where we were supposed to meet because she had cut her hair.
posted by jeather at 1:04 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


White men.

Well, you know what they say - all those damn white men; they all look alike!
posted by fifthrider at 1:04 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


"9 of 14. I think I missed all the ones where you have to go from profile to head-on. If you ever want to rob a bank in front of me, just walk sideways."

Also 9/14 and also had the most trouble with head-on to profile.

What's weird is that I'm notorious about not noticing or remembering details of appearance -- seriously, I couldn't remember my ex-wife's and another ex's eye colors until I got in trouble with them enough times to make a point of remembering. I absolutely am not going to notice someone's eye color or even, often, hair color (unless there's something particularly memorable about the hairstyle or coloring).

But although that's the case, I seem to recognize character actors and the like somewhat more often than most of the people I know. Not freakishly often, like furtive's wife or other people -- the people who got 85% or more correct. But still more often, I think, than average.

It's maybe representative of my whole cognitive style -- I'm strongly inclined toward synthesis and holism and not memorization and detail. When I was taking the test, after it became more difficult, I found myself noting details of features -- lower brow, wide chin, eyebrow shape, and similar -- in an attempt to do well, and I wonder if that actually hurt my score because I started to try to match these details and I'd invariably become more uncertain, rather than less.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have prosopagnosia, 'face blindness', the inability to recognize identity from faces. If I see you, then turn around, I'm not able to form a mental picture of your face. Most people who I meet, I don't remember. I'm not able to recognise people out of context unless I have specific other cues to latch on to (and even then I'm rarely sure). If you test me using standard metrics, I score on the 2nd percentile for face recognition, which is as low as the test goes (2.6% of people are blind).

I got 7/14. This test is broken.

Most of those I got right were due to facial marks, such as freckles, which I habitually pay attention to. A couple of them had unusual hair, such as long sideburns, that were unique in the sample of pictures to pick them out of. The early ones were the same picture repeated, so they were very easy to identify by things other than face recognition.

When they're doing this kind of research, normally, they remove all distinguishing marks from the picture other than the face. You don't get hair, you don't get freckles. That makes it a much better test of face recognition. I am not impressed with the design of this test.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [27 favorites]


Could you be a super-recogniser?

No, I could not. I'm the guy who gets all the characters confused when they go to boot camp.
posted by Edgewise at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I got 9/14, but my wife rang the doorbell and needed to be let in. I'll have to take it again.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2015


To my utter lack of surprise, I am not a super-recogniser.
posted by kyrademon at 1:15 PM on June 14, 2015


11/14, email for longer test.
posted by mistersquid at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2015


Can you tell various lumpy-headed Englishmen apart from each other?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


8/14. A lot of the second set (choices) showed the heads as squished on my browser, did that happen for anyone else? People don't walk around with their heads squished in real life.

I'm pretty good with faces, especially actors. But then again, I get plenty of opportunities to look at them on screen, not 7 seconds. Last night we watched The Making of a Lady on Netflix, and I recognized one of the actors, but couldn't place him. He was the butler from Agent Carter (James D'Arcy).

Fun test!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:21 PM on June 14, 2015


13 of 14.

Of course, I'm a waiter, so I also remember what they drink, who they date, and how they tip.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


6/14. I'm real bad at faces, I have to think about distinguishing marks, and other distinct physical characteristics to remember people. I was just operating off actual things like eye angle, length of sideburns and ear shape for the test.
posted by Ferreous at 1:24 PM on June 14, 2015


I think I probably have something like prosopagnosia, in that I'm always afraid I won't recognize people. When my son first started school, I was really terrified about not recognizing him when the streams of children came out. I tell you that story to say that my score was 11/14, so I too believe the validity of the test may be at issue.
posted by dejah420 at 1:26 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


12/14! On the other hand, I cannot remember anyone's name.
posted by thivaia at 1:30 PM on June 14, 2015


one time me and my mother were the only people in an elevator and did not realize it or recognize the sole other living member of our immediate family for 25 floors until we both went to get out at the same time.

so i'm not going to bother with this test is what i'm saying.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


12/14

I didn't think it was really very hard at all. Weird.
posted by oddman at 1:34 PM on June 14, 2015


7/14. For the ones I did get right I relied on how well-groomed the eyebrows were and whether they had a widow's peak.
posted by bunderful at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2015


12/14. But don't ask me to remember their names...
posted by sutt at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2015


10/14 - and yeah the rotation/squishing thing made it harder as it went along. Thing I wonder about in terms of policing and trials is that doing this test meant we all focused on remembering someone. In regular life one mostly doesn't do that.
posted by leslies at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2015


Isn't there like tons of research showing that most people are awful at facial recognition in cases like this?

The high scores those with face blindness say they're getting (and that they think there's a problem with the test) is kinda weird.
posted by sio42 at 2:06 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


13/14

Ears, eyes and mouth.

Hot damn, those were some bad pictures though.
posted by Sphinx at 2:22 PM on June 14, 2015


8/14. I kept thinking one of the guys was that guy from the movie - no, not him, the other one, where he's like a tough guy? With a jacket?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another anecdotal story; I got mugged in a parking lot, and dragged behind a car until my purse strap was cut by the bone in my wrist, awhile the perpetrators were speeding away. My sister was with me, and could pick them out of the line and book, I could do neither. I can still remember the dudes yellow eyes, but the mug shots were black and white, so I had nothing.
posted by dejah420 at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2015


This is weird, I was expecting to come into a thread of all 14/14 scores and remarking on how this was not really that challenging...is this my first ever innate talent?
posted by invitapriore at 2:36 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


11/14, and for the last four my son was yelling at me because he wanted a new bandaid because his old bandaid fell off. (He's four so this is merely irritating and not grossly inappropriate.) Going from normal-ratio full face to skewed-ratio profile was remarkably complex, particularly with a 4 second timer and a pic that takes 3 seconds to load.
posted by KathrynT at 2:39 PM on June 14, 2015


I also have a terrible memory for faces and and did this on my iPod Touch so the squished faces were approx 3/16" high and I also scored a 10 so yeah, this test is probably somewhat unreliable.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2015


invitapriore - right there with you.

14/14 and it did not seem stressful or difficult at all.

My other mutant ability is being able to raise room temperature by plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit so this slots in nicely to my current resumé.
posted by jammy at 3:03 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I met someone for drinks and we spent four hours having one of the best conversations of my life. A week later they asked if I wanted to meet up again and I accepted. I got to the bar first and watched everyone coming in, but I was terrified I wouldn't remember what they looked like. Fortunately, they saw me first and came up to me.

Due to some physical characteristics, I'm very memorable. I live in the city where I grew up and I am constantly approached by people who knew me 20 or 30 years ago. I have literally no idea who they are. I mean, good luck if I met you last week. Sometimes I don't even recognize people I see every day in the office, if I see them out of context. It depends on the context whether I play along or ask, but it's frequently awkward.

But I got 10/14 on this test. I think a more accurate test would be to show a video with four or more people walking by, then show a photo grid and ask which people, if any, were in the video. I bet most people don't even get 50% on that.
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ha, my next door neighbor, whom I see regularly, Just Now came to the door, and I answered it and said "can I help you?" In that same tone I use for meat by truck vendors. Point being, I really suck at faces, and I score high on this test.
posted by dejah420 at 3:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I have an unusual ability to recognize voices. Like, if an actor does a voice over in a commercial, or they do an exaggerated voice for a cartoon, I'll usually know who I'm hearing. I get the impression it doesn't work like that for most people, that they don't hear a commercial and go, "Oh, Sigourney Weaver's voice." I'd be curious if I'm wrong about that. Do my fellow Mefites constantly recognize voices in commercials and cartoons and stuff?

Every now and again I'll daydream about offering my services to the government, so I could listen to recordings and suss out that the perp's voice can be heard at the 07:35 mark. Then one of the other agents will say, "How the hell does she do that?" And another one will say, "I don't know. But that's why they call her the Recognizer."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:24 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


12/14 for me too, but I never remember names either.
posted by me3dia at 3:29 PM on June 14, 2015


Hey, in spite of my mutant face powers I am really dumb about saving links. Can one of you other facefreaks MeMail me the link to follow up test(s)? I am super curious now; this thing was fun.
posted by byanyothername at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2015


9/14 If they'd have had names attached I doubt I'd would've recognised any of them.
posted by diziet at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2015


7/14 and I'm pretty sure that's just being able to recognize their hair styles. I need hair and a voice to recognize most people, but I am pretty good at remembering names, so I guess that's something.
posted by tealNoise at 3:38 PM on June 14, 2015


A lot of the second set (choices) showed the heads as squished on my browser, did that happen for anyone else?

Me too (on Safari). I was assuming that was supposed to mimic bad CCTV footage or something.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:48 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then one of the other agents will say, "How the hell does she do that?" And another one will say, "I don't know. But that's why they call her the Recognizer."

Please come to my work and sit on conference calls with me, because there are always 10 guys with accents that I cannot tell apart.
posted by desjardins at 3:57 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


All white dudes look alike to me.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:21 PM on June 14, 2015


13/14 and I am objectively terrible at faces/most social skills in general.

I suspect this ability - if it exists - can be passably faked through geometric visualization/extrapolation skill same as you'd encounter on any IQ or similar standardized test. Identify the spatial relationships between signature markings, rotate to new orientation, compare, done.

If you really want to test for some sort of unusual neurotopographic feature that results in a truly superior, specialized skill - go with desjardins' video vs. photo grid test, or maybe compare how people do with human faces vs how they do with dog faces. Or potatoes.
posted by Ryvar at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


..."and that, kids, is how I discovered I was basically the Rain Man of potatoes."
posted by Ryvar at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


10/14 with a few beers in me. I'm a teacher though, so I'm good with faces. But names...I cringe very time I see a kid I know I taught but whose name I can't recall.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 4:36 PM on June 14, 2015


I also have prosopagnosia, and got 8/14. I suspected something might be wrong with the test, so I had someone else take it without looking at the faces first - just choosing at random.

They got 7/14.

Something is wrong with this test.
posted by dmd at 4:37 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm ok at faces, but my brain appears to only recognize the first five or so Roberts, Toms, Susans or whatever versions of a common name I've met in my life. So in other words, I will know that I know you, but if you are the sixth Tom I've met, then I will not remember that you are Tom at all. If you're a Percival or Hubert or something, though, I'll probably remember that.

I spend a lot of time saying "Hi!" without the followup name when people greet me, even people I see every week or month. I've tried several of those memory tricks, but none of them have worked so far.
posted by emjaybee at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I pretended I was a real cop and just pictured emptying my clip at unarmed citizens.

Then I wore a rubber bracelet pretending to be a hero.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2015


12/14, which seems shockingly high to me since I routinely mix up actors and actresses.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:41 PM on June 14, 2015


My pharmacist is one of those people. However, I don't recognize people I've sung in the same choir with for 5 years.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:41 PM on June 14, 2015


Elsewhere on MetaFilter I've written about my history as a child psych experiment subject and from that I felt confident I'd do well on this test. And I did; 13/14 while being distracted. But I found the crummy image clipping--the first photo a mug shot from one angle, the second a distorted version of the other view, badly clipped--really annoying. It didn't strike me as typical of CCTV footage, which is usually shot from above. I'm looking forward to the longer test to see if it hews closer to what investigators would actually see in the field, including views from behind, partially covered faces (beyond sunglasses), a more diverse population vis-a-vis race, gender, age, etc.

Once I was sitting on a plane and a woman walked by who I immediately recognized as DesJardins from a photo she posted on MetaFilter. Towards the end of the flight I realized I'd lost my iPad and panicked, so I never said hello (although I memailed her). One of these days I'll drive down to a Milwaukee MeetUp and introduce myself properly.
posted by carmicha at 4:54 PM on June 14, 2015


Please come to my work and sit on conference calls with me, because there are always 10 guys with accents that I cannot tell apart.

My actual hearing isn't that great. I've been to a lot of loud clubs in my day, and the damage manifests in words getting garbled. Everything sounds just as loud, but not as clear. So I could listen to a conference call and probably tell you which person was talking when, but it's not unlikely I'd have no idea what they were saying!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got 10 out of 14. This doesn't surprise me too much. I don't think I have any super-human abilities, but I am pretty good at recognizing faces, even years later usually. Now tying that face to a name or remembering exactly where I've seen them can fail me sometimes, but I will certainly recognize their face.
I think I did better on the questions when I didn't try so hard and just went with the snap answer my brain gave before I tried to analyze and actively recall the previous image.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:32 PM on June 14, 2015


14/14 and it seemed rather easy. And I don't even like other people.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 5:58 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


7 out of 14 of those men were me. But I'm not sure which ones.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have to do this on a computer since it's woefully small on my phone, but years of cataloguing stock photography have certainly trained me in this skill. Neat!
posted by Calzephyr at 6:14 PM on June 14, 2015


14/14 here.

I've always been good at this. Can't remember names at all though. I've won lots of bets over the years when someone thinks that it's 'so and so' in a show we're watching and I'm all nope it so not and I don't get how you can even think that because it's really obvious.

Kinda wish I had known that it's considered an actual useful skill.
posted by Jalliah at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2015


I am another person who cannot follow movies with large casts because I can never tell the characters apart but got 12/14. This test is flawed.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2015


I am another person who cannot follow movies with large casts because I can never tell the characters apart but got 12/14. This test is flawed.

I do great with films or shows like Orange is the New Black -- lots of diversity of skin tone, hair styles, and body shapes. Films where all the actors are men with short hair wearing suits leave me hopeless and I have no idea what is going on. There is certain sub-genre of mafia movies that are the absolute worst with this -- everyone is dressed the same, has the same hair, and all the shots are in dim rooms so you can't see any details.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's pretty easy when you just look at and compare skin tones.
14/14. Robot.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:05 PM on June 14, 2015


Are these "experts" going to be what the prosecution brings in to "prove" guilt now that shoddy DNA tests and fingerprint analyses are being brought up to exonerrate people?
posted by Slackermagee at 7:26 PM on June 14, 2015


10/14. From who guy who also couldn't tell you my last girlfriend's or best friend's eye color

I have literally failed to recognize people I've JUST MET THE DAY BEFORE and awkwardly reintroduced myself to them. Because they simply changed their hair style. From up to down. That was all.

The trick for me was leaning heavily on my medical background, specifically with clinical genetics. When you spend a good portion of your days guessing if someone is dysmorphic enough to merit gene testing you start to notice the pigmented macules, long philtrums and wide glabellas everywhere...

... or I just got lucky.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:43 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


13/14. I am excited I did well, terrible photos though.
posted by SarahElizaP at 9:12 PM on June 14, 2015


Repeatedly got distracted by faces that looked like guys from earlier in the test and then forgot who I was supposed to be looking for. Scored 10 and did not feel super.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:23 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I went into this expecting to do well, as I'm very good at face recognition, but I was surprised to get 14/14. I'm slightly embarrassed that my white dude radar is so good.
posted by Anoplura at 9:29 PM on June 14, 2015


BTW, my wife ended up scoring 13/14, the one she failed: the sunglasses one.
posted by furtive at 9:36 PM on June 14, 2015


Ah, the superpower police claim to have to shore up shoddy cases, much the way CSI stuff is touted as a superpower in court rooms and fiction to gloss over its imperfections.
posted by mobunited at 9:37 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


14/14.....thank god, my current career is totally boring. Quantico, here I come! Oh, what? You don't take fat 45 year old women who don't exercise? Hm. I'll get back to ya.
posted by tristeza at 10:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, the superpower police claim to have to shore up shoddy cases, much the way CSI stuff is touted as a superpower in court rooms and fiction to gloss over its imperfections.

I'd call it the police version of Therapeutic Touch, but since forensic "science" is mostly already the police version of Therapeutic Touch...
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 PM on June 14, 2015


11/14. Did ok with sunglasses, but failed to imagine what the guy with carp-shaped eyesockets would look like in profile. Maybe because I was so distracted with wondering how you get eye sockets shaped like that.

Do not think I would have done so well if I had just happened to, I don't know, look at the person for a few seconds on the train or in the queue for coffee in front of me, and then see them again later in a completely different context. They might look naggingly familiar but I'd be totally unable to place the previous context.

I also think it would be a very different test if the subjects had not all been youngish white men. I have no idea if I would have done as well if the subjects had been different ethnicities.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:17 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am one of those people who doesn't remember faces AT ALL when I meet people (and so I don't remember the names either), but I have a weird ability to remember photographs. In fact, this has been my prosopagnosia compensation technique -- get a photo of the person I need to remember, and then when I see them in person, I match the face to the photo database in my head.

I got 12/14 and was invited to the longer test series. Just finished that (it's pretty long, but interesting) and I don't know if my score was considered good or not. The tests in the longer one are way more difficult than the screener test. I did ace a couple of the individual tests, though, and I guess I did tolerably at the rest, because at the end they invited me to Greenwich for further testing if possible, so... I don't know. I'm in the US so Greenwich is out of the question, but I signed up for further online testing.

The only thing any of this says about me, though, is that I'm good at remembering photos. When I try to remember people, unless I can remember their photo, all I see in my brain is a blur where the face should be. But photos... it's like they aren't faces, they're art, and my brain treats them differently.
posted by litlnemo at 11:43 PM on June 14, 2015


Oh, Athanassiel, the longer test includes different ethnicities.
posted by litlnemo at 11:44 PM on June 14, 2015


12/14, but I never have any idea who anyone is when I run into them out of context. And I confuse my brunet white dudes in movies to the point where many old black and white films are utterly bewildering. I also couldn't tell for sure that Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman were different people during the Phantom Menace, which made the handmaiden-decoys-for-Padme plotline incomprehensible.
posted by gingerest at 12:36 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


12/14 which is interesting because in real life, I'm terrible with both faces and names. Apparently though, according to this test, if I'm interested enough in a person to make an effort to remember someone I actually can!
posted by Jubey at 3:07 AM on June 15, 2015


I used to think I was good with faces, but over the past year this ability seemed to quickly slip away from me. Then I realized it's because nearly every man I know between 20 and 35 has adopted the same beard-with-SS-officer-haircut look at almost the same time.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:13 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


9/14, and I'm someone who literally didn't recognize my brother when I ran into him outside a family setting. Ditto my aunt. I don't think the test proves much, except maybe that I'm good at multiple-choice guessing.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:19 AM on June 15, 2015


Films where all the actors are men with short hair wearing suits leave me hopeless and I have no idea what is going on.

Many fifties and early sixties American movies and TV remain largely incomprehensible to me, especially if they focus on some setting like the police or the military where conservative haircuts are mandated. Here are six or eight thirtyish white guys in jacket and tie with crew cuts and flat Midwest accents. Also it is in black and white to drain away as many visual clues as possible. Good luck.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:37 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


13/14, no stress. but i kind of already knew it would be like this -- i always remember faces for some reason. names, not so much. i can tell you if i've met or seen someone before, but i won't remember his or her name. didn't do the longer test, though, because meh ... i already stare at computers screens long enough every day ...

it would be interesting to know the background and vocation of those who score high and those who don't -- even just among MeFites who've taken the test. for instance, i'm an editor, so always looking at images and text and things like that ...
posted by despues at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2015


Well if this thread is telling me anything, it's that there's a lot of people here who have undiagnosed prosopagnosia!
posted by Dreadnought at 9:56 AM on June 15, 2015


You know how when you say a word over and over it loses any meaning? That's how I felt at the end of this.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:22 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


14/14. My rates are very reasonable...
posted by j_curiouser at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2015


Here are six or eight thirtyish white guys in jacket and tie with crew cuts and flat Midwest accents. Also it is in black and white to drain away as many visual clues as possible. Good luck.

A few years ago at work I was assigned to a tedious side project where I had to identify various people in old photographs for a book someone was doing. These were all white men in the 40s and 50s in b&w photos and I COULD NOT AT ALL tell any of them apart. It was a frankly joyous moment when someone was obese or had some kind of scarring or visible injury. It was the most frustrating 6 months of my life. Suits, haircuts, shoes, ties, hats, everything was virtually identical without even a fancy pocket square as a personalization. Maybe one out of 100 men had facial hair, and they were already very obviously ethnically non-WASPy. It was incredibly alienating and creepy and I can't imagine what it must have felt like to live then.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:36 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


13 out of 14, but I'm not gonna work for Johnny Law.
posted by snottydick at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


12/14... and I've always thought I was really bad with faces, because in real life I'm awful at recognizing people. I guess I'm really not trying hard enough.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:40 PM on June 15, 2015


13/14. Like many in this thread, I'm utterly terrible with faces in real life but good at this type of tests. I'll just quote myself from an earlier thread (that linked to two faceblindness tests, where my score was near-perfect):

> I hardly ever remember anyone's face until the third time I meet them (even if we've been talking for hours), and even then I'm often uncertain. I was 20 minutes into The Departed before realizing that I'd been watching two different characters -- played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon -- and not just one. Also, I just watched Good, and at the end, when John thinks he recognizes his friend in a crowd but it turns out to be someone else, I wasn't sure what had happened, because I couldn't tell if it was his friend or not. That kind of thing happens to me a lot.

Some more recent experiences: There's a group of people that I meet at least once a week, but somehow it took over six months for me to be able to tell two women in the group apart. And someone told me they had met one of my friends from the group, but his description didn't help much, because I couldn't remember which of my friends had beards.

So I'm awesome at identifying people from photos, or 3d models, and I can draw nearly photorealistic faces without reference, but if you're my friend, I probably think of you as some kind of blur. Sorry about that!
posted by martinrebas at 5:17 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm bad at remembering faces but my father once identified a cousin of my mother's that he had never seen (in another town) on the basis that he looked like a [Family name].
posted by tracer at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2015


martinrebas, that sounds so similar to me. When I try to visualize people their clothes might be clear as day but the face is a complete blur. Until I have a photo to memorize, that is.

My difficulty with real-life faces has had a fairly serious impact on my life. It would be a lot worse to deal with if I couldn't memorize still photos as well.
posted by litlnemo at 12:50 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


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