Sunday January 30, 2011 8:15 am
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____For a long time, I thought I had a particularly poor visual memory because I cannot bring up a “quality” mental image even of people I love and know intimately. I eventually learned that this wasn’t a personal handicap. With the exception of those with eidetic (photographic) memories, most people do no better than I do. ___
Try this experiment for yourself. Think of a close friend or colleague whom you’ve seen within the last week but not within the last 24 hours. Close your eyes and pull up an image of their face.
Now try to answer arbitrary questions about the image in your mind; the kind of questions which would be easy if you were looking at a photograph. For example, how big is their nose and what shape is it? Ditto eyebrows and ears. Describe their hairline. Do they have a prominent (or receding) chin, adams apple, cheekbones? etc etc. If any of the relevant details are unusual, you’ll remember them easily, whereas the “standard” detail is very fuzzy indeed. Try to look your mental image in the eye. Can you even see the eyes? What colour are they?
You’ll probably find that the best you can really do is visualise a kind of cartoon like caricature of the person, probably with an expression on their face which reflects the way you tend to think about them. The image quality is appalling. ’tis little wonder that we make such bad eye-witnesses.
This research is beginning to explain why…