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What Are Super-Recognizers?

When it comes to security and surveillance, facial recognition technology can greatly improve effectiveness. Aside from this advanced technology, did you know that there are a few people in the world who are deemed “super-recognizers”?  Super-recognizers have superior abilities in recognizing faces, even after seeing a face for a fleeting moment. For example, a super-recognizer can catch a glimpse of a person’s face and still be able to identify the person years later. These people are very rare, making up less than 1% of the population.

According to scientists, we have brain regions solely dedicated to face recognition. We also look at faces as a whole, taking note of different features and characteristics, unlike the way we look at other objects. Should you damage a face recognition area of your brain, you could develop prosopagnosia, or face blindness. A look at how the brain of a super recognizer versus someone with prosopagnosia versus an average person gives us insight to how the brain works and what sets these individuals apart in terms of recognition and processing.

With the use of eye tracking technology, psychologists have found that when looking at faces, most people typically focus on the eyes. This suggests that they eyes may carry important information for facial identity. Interestingly enough, some people with prosopagnosia tend to avoid the eye area and look at the mouth instead. Super-recognizers, however, tend to spend more time looking at noses. This challenges the previous belief that the eye region is the most important for facial recognition, shifting the focus to the center of the face instead. It is likely that more studies will be done or recreated to test the theory of the center of the face being the optimal region for facial recognition.

Because of their exceptional identifying abilities, super-recognizers are valuable for law enforcement and security. For example, London’s Metropolitan Police have a super-recognizer unit which works to spot suspects in crowds or on CCTV surveillance footage. This unit has proved successful thus far, showing that there is a promising future for super-recognizers.

What are your thoughts on the future of facial recognition technology? How will super-recognizers influence our surveillance practices? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. Want to test your face recognition abilities? Take this test to find out.

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What Are Super-Recognizers?
What are super-recognizers and how can studying how their brain works help to improve facial recognition and surveillance technologies?
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