Are you really good with faces?
Like, really, really good? Do you find yourself recognizing people years after you first saw them—even if you’ve never spoken to them?
If so, you might be a “super recognizer,” according to psychology professor Josh P. Davis. Davis is performing a study with the University of Greenwich in England to identify these super recognizers, who may be genetically gifted at recognizing and remembering facial features.
This actually isn’t a new concept. The idea of super-recognition has been around since a 2009 Harvard report, which looked at four people with this ability. They claimed to be able to recognize faces, years after they’d first seen them.
Of course, there’s a downside to every gift, and the four super-recognizers told Harvard that they’d downplay or hide their abilities. Why?
Well, as IFL Science reported, one person from the original study told the researchers that she’d “pretend that I don’t remember…because it seems like I stalk [people], or that they mean more to me than they do.”
The Harvard researchers were able to verify some of the claims of these super-recognizers, which led to an interesting question: How many more of these gifted individuals were there?
That’s where Josh P. Davis and the University of Greenwich come in.
They’ve created a series of tests to determine whether participants have the innate ability to recognize and remember faces to an unusual degree. The test isn’t perfect, of course; Davis notes that even if you score well, you might not qualify as a super-recognizer, but he encourages people who succeed at the test to contact his research team for additional testing.
Some researchers believe that the ability comes from the development of the fusiform face area (FFA) of the brain. That’s the same area that causes prsopagnosia—the inability to remember faces—when damaged.
If you are a super-recognizer, what does that mean?
For starters, you may be getting calls from your local police department. Several authorities in the United Kingdom have tried to use super-recognizers to identify crimes. In fact, Davis has assisted these police units with their work, according to IFL Science.
You can also take pride in the fact that you’re unusual; scientists have only identified a handful of super-recognizers throughout the world. The ability is likely genetic, and it doesn’t seem to be something that can be taught—other studies have shown that individuals with excellent memories aren’t any better at remembering faces than the average person, so this ability seems to be distinct from memory.
It can’t be developed, so you’re either a super-recognizer or you’re not. Well, that’s what we think, anyway; remember, scientists have only been able to work with a few dozen super-recognizers to date.
So, are you one of the lucky ones? There’s only one way to find out. Click here to visit the brief survey from the University of Greenwich. It takes about five minutes, and it’s completely anonymous, although the researchers’ computers will make a record of your score for the purpose of analysis. Good luck!