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October 13, 2009

BehindTheMedspeak: What is the opposite of prosopagnosia?

Easy, joe: first off, what's prosopagnosia?

Prosopagnosia is a diminished ability to recognize faces, found in about 2% of all people.

In a paper published in the April 2009 issue of Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Harvard psychologist Richard Russell and colleagues "have shown that there is a third group of people whose face recognition skills are unusually good — people whose powers of face recognition seem to be as enhanced as the face recognition powers of those with prosopagnosia are diminished," wrote Shankar Vedantam in a May 25, 2009 article in the Washington Post.

Here's the abstract of the paper.


Super-recognizers: People with extraordinary face recognition ability

We tested 4 people who claimed to have significantly better than ordinary face recognition ability. Exceptional ability was confirmed in each case. On two very different tests of face recognition, all 4 experimental subjects performed beyond the range of control subject performance. They also scored significantly better than average on a perceptual discrimination test with faces. This effect was larger with upright than with inverted faces, and the 4 subjects showed a larger “inversion effect” than did control subjects, who in turn showed a larger inversion effect than did developmental prosopagnosics. This result indicates an association between face recognition ability and the magnitude of the inversion effect. Overall, these “super-recognizers” are about as good at face recognition and perception as developmental prosopagnosics are bad. Our findings demonstrate the existence of people with exceptionally good face recognition ability and show that the range of face recognition and face perception ability is wider than has been previously acknowledged.


Want more?

Scroll down here (it's the website for the research group whose work appears above) for links to over 35 recent articles an a variety of publications and media, including video clips.

"Super-recognizers" — not catchy enough.

Let's put on our thinking caps and come up with a better word/term; I'll send on your suggestions to Professor Russell.

October 13, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Name for Prof Russell- chimetimers as in their face rings a bell and for some more often.

Posted by: Nick B | Oct 14, 2009 2:46:13 PM

I know what prosopagnosia is!

'Cause I'm one of the (un)lucky 2% with it.

Posted by: Mary Sue | Oct 13, 2009 6:32:04 PM

"I watch Documentaries a lot more then Soaps", one plus for this affliction. I wish I had prosopagnosia when I was young and hormonal, it would have saved me a lot of money on beer....come on, I'm joking...about the money...

Posted by: Joe Peach | Oct 13, 2009 4:55:59 PM

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