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Science AMA Series: Hi reddit, I’m Dr Ashok Jansari, a neuropsychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London. I research individuals with face-blindness and so called ‘super recognisers’, who have an almost superhuman ability to recognise faces. AMA!
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Hi reddit! I first became interested in facial recognition when one of my patients mistook me for George Michael, of Wham fame. While somewhat flattering and very funny, it also provided an insight into how people with acquired brain injury can struggle to recognise faces. This condition, known as ‘prosopagnosia’ or face-blindness, can prevent otherwise healthy people from recognising the faces of famous people, friends, loved ones, and even themselves. It can either be ‘acquired’ through brain damage or can be a developmental condition that someone has had all their lives. A famous case of the former is ‘The man who mistook his wife for a hat’ documented by Oliver Sacks. Interestingly Oliver Sacks himself then found out that he probably had the developmental variant of the condition! My research into both developmental and acquired prosopagnosia helps us to understand how face-processing works in healthy people. More recently, I’ve been collaborating on a project to identify so-called ‘super-recognisers’ – people on the opposite end of the facial recognition spectrum. Super-recognisers exhibit near super-human facial recognition abilities and can often remember faces that they have only seen fleetingly years before or schoolmates that they haven’t seen since childhood with relative ease. Through this work, I am collaborating with London’s Metropolitan Police using super-recognisers in the force to track down criminals from the most indistinct CCTV images - indeed, the Met are the first police force in the world to use super-recognisers to fight crime! Take the test and find out if you could be a ‘super recogniser’. If you get over 85% you could be at the top end of the facial recognition spectrum. I will be back at 2:30 BST (9:30 am ET)to answer your questions, Ask Me Anything! Here’s proof I’m here. I’ll be answering your questions shortly! OK FOLKS, I’M GOING TO CALL IT A DAY. THANKS SO MUCH FOR TAKING PART IN THIS DISCUSSION. And thanks for all of those who did the test - you really contributed to science because your results will be part of my database which adds to our knowledge. I will reply to everyone who has emailed me but that might take a couple of days. I will look at this thread again and see if there are questions I can answer. Hope you found this useful and thanks again :-)