May 21, 2009
Face recognition ability varies widely
U.S. and British psychologists say some people remember a face years later --
super-recognizers -- and some don't remember a face from yesterday.
The study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, found the super-recognizers are one end of a spectrum of face recognition ability that also includes the lack of ability to recognize faces, or
There has been a default assumption that there is either normal face recognition, or there is disordered face recognition, Russell said in a statement.
This suggests that's not the case, that there is actually a very wide range of ability. It suggests a different model -- a different way of thinking about face recognition ability, and possibly even other aspects of perception, in terms of a spectrum of abilities, rather than there being normal and disordered ability.
Russell says some super-recognizers reported pretending not to recognize someone so as not to bring undue importance to a fleeting encounter. One woman was able to confirm she had identified another woman on the street who had served as her waitress -- five years earlier in a different city.