Having a great memory is a valuable skill to have for many different occupations and hobbies. If you’re someone who can watch a movie and identify one of the characters as someone you saw in the background of a movie you watched many years ago, you might be something called a “super-recognizer.” Other people are like me and are thrilled to wear a hat, mask, and sunglasses out of the house because I cannot remember people I’ve met for the life of me.
Super-recognizers have a natural ability to remember people they may have merely passed by in an elevator even decades later. This unique skill is found in only around 1-2% of the world’s population due to a genetic predisposition. Nothing sounds creepier than someone coming up to you and saying they met you in an elevator a decade ago and asking how your job interview went.
In people with this skill set, the areas of the brain that identify faces are much more active in super-recognizers brains and they may have a larger fusiform face area than in others (shown below).
People with damage to this area have a condition known as prosopagnosia and struggle to recognize faces, sometimes even their own. So when you hear someone say “I don’t even know who I am anymore,” feel free to diagnose them in this moment of suffering.
Some of these super-recognizers only need a small glimpse of someone to place them. This emerging science can also help us learn how facial recognition works as well as how memories are stored and recovered from the brain. Hopefully, science can advance to the point where I stop walking into rooms and forgetting why I’m there 7 times a day.
Super-recognizers may be helpful to many industries including police offers, government, financial institutions, and even casinos. This has been a topic of debate recently as it has been used to identify protestors by police officers like Andy Pope of Birmingham.
This skill can be tested with the UNSW Face Test, a method used to determine a participant’s ability to exceptionally remember faces. The test has been around since 2017 and can be used to rank and compare super-recognizers.
Over the last 3 years, 31,000 people have taken the test and no one has scored 100%. You are considered a super-recognizer if you score over 70% and the highest score recorded was 97%. The average person scores around 20%. I took it and show my results below. They’re not great don’t get your hopes up.
Here is a video of a super-recognizer being surprise-tested on their skills. Please don’t ever surprise test people on things. It feels a little rude.
1. Others claim to have the same ability.
2. Watching movies can turn into an intense process.
3. This would be unnerving.
4. Another way to test yourself, found here.
5. It’s a tight club.
6. Here’s what the test looks like.
First, you are shown a series of incredibly unflattering photos with the caption “remember this person.”
7. Then, participants are shown another set of photos.
They are asked “did you study this person?” It makes you feel like a robot learning how to love.
8. Then the test shows a “target” photo and asks the participant to sort through photos to match them to the target.
I feel like we could have called them something other than “targets,” right?
9. The test is scored out of 120. Here is my score.
Take the test and let us know how you score!
You may also want to check out our favorite links from this week:
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- 22 Parents And Grandparents Failing At Technology So Terribly It’s Hard Not To Laugh
- 22 Clever Movie Details You Never Noticed Before
- Structural Engineer Shares The Worst Things He Has Seen While On The Job