prosopagnosia illustration

Jack Barnhardt jackeb at
Tue Mar 13 15:41:11 EST 2001

I agree with the last paragraph, but I don't quite understand how it is
compatible with an earlier statement in your posting where you say that the
inability the distinguish certain faces is not a biological phenomenon.
The way I see it, what you describe in the last paragraph is precisely a
biological phenomenon.

Developing the ability to distinguish human faces through exposure to these
faces is probably no different than developing the ability to percieve more
simple shapes or even the most basic visual stimulus:  a border or line.
If one is not exposed to vertical lines when the visual system is
developing, one will not be able to percieve vertical lines later.  The
tissue that would normally mediate this perception will become devoted to
other things.

In other words, being deprived of exposure to stimuli can result in an
inability to percieve or distinguish it.  (This concept is certainly not
limited to vision.)

This seems like a much more reasonable explanation than the 'racism'
hypothesis (and I'm happy you disagreed with it).

Cultural influences affect our experience, and therefore affect the
developement of our nervous system.

"Mark Ingram" <mingram at> wrote in message
news:3AAE51E7.E6703B0 at
> While I agree with the fact that it is not necessary to diverge as far as
> ape faces for this experiment to work, I respectfully disagree with both
> of your conclusions.
> This is neither a racist nor a biological phenomenon, but a cultural one.
> If we had been brought up in a community of apes, with limited exposure
> to humans, we would have exactly as much difficulty differentiating
> the human faces, and no problems with the ape ones.
> In other words, the ease of distinguishing faces is directly proportional
> to how closely those faces correlate to the faces we saw frequently as
> we were developing the face-recognition cognitive skillset.
> <sound of donning asbestos suit>
> -- Mark Ingram.
> Filip van den Bergh wrote:
> > If taken into account that specific areas in the brain are responsible
> > recognizing faces, it can be imagined that this is more of a biological
> > mechanism than you suggest here. Perhaps we are simply not capable of
> > differentiating facial features of other races. I would not quantify
> > in this way.
> > Aside from that, I believe that the illustration would be much more
> > if indeed done with people of different races. I believe it will work
and it
> > seems less trivial than doing the test  with ape-faces.
> >
> > Filip
> > > Hi Michael,
> >
> > [snip]
> >
> > > It occurs to me that you might not need a set of ape faces at all.
> > > phenomenon is closely related to the old racial slur, "all orientals
> > > alike to me," or "all caucasians look alike to me," or "all black
> > > look alike to me," etc, etc.
> > >
> > > Our ability to perceive distinguishing characteristics is apparently a
> > > function of the *value* we place on the people or things involved.
> > >
> > > In the South, 30 years ago, all black people did in fact look alike!!
> > It's
> > > amazing how individualized they have become ...
> > >
> > > You might even be able to *quantify* a culture's racism by testing for
> > > perceptual acuity ...
> > >
> > > Cheers,
> > >
> > > Glen
> > >

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