"All Americans look alike" is a common joke in Asia and a similar sentiment is expressed in virtually every other country populated by a race different than its tourists.   And to some degree it is true.  Most people find it much harder to recognize faces of people from different races than their own.

During a 15-month research project funded by the  Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Teesside University academic Dr. Kazuyo Nakabayashi will carry out experiments in Japan and the UK and collate behavioral and eye movement data.

The study will involve asking students from different races to look at Oriental and Caucasian faces in photographs and online and will examine the ‘recognition keys’ they use – their eye movement, for example.

I believe that music sounds like people, moving. Yes, the idea may sound a bit crazy, but it’s an old idea, much discussed in the 20th century, and going all the way back to the Greeks. There are lots of things going for the theory, including that it helps us explain (1) why our brains are so good at absorbing music (…because we evolved to possess human-movement-detecting auditory mechanisms), (2) why music emotionally moves us (…because human movement is often expressive of the mover’s mood or state), and (3) why music gets us moving (…because we’re a social species prone to social contagion).

Even if you know an unexpected event is likely to occur, you are no better, and may be even worse, than those who aren't expecting anything unexpected at all.   Did you expect that confusing opening sentence?   Now you get the point.

The study, from Daniel Simons, a professor of psychology and in the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, appears this month as the inaugural paper in the new open access journal i-Perception. (
The fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood has been interpreted in myriad ways, particularly as sexual awakening or sexual coming of age (either biologically or socially, depending on which bath-house you pray in). Perhaps if the crimson-caped interloper existed today, she'd wear fire-engine red circle lenses to accent her childlike, doe-eyed innocence.
We meet many of the same people every day but without the ability to recognize faces at first glance, our lives would be a confusing mess.    Imagine asking your boss for coffee or a waitress to place a phone call.

Monkeys also possess the ability to distinguish between faces of group members and to extract the relevant information about the individual directly from the face. With the help of the so-called 'Thatcher illusion', scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have examined how people and macaque monkeys recognize faces and process the information in the brain.  They found out that both species perceive the faces of their kin immediately, while the faces of the other species are processed in a different way.
This is totally not my field-- medicine-- but totally up my alley-- electronic gaming.  So here goes.  Doctors prescribed playing Nintendo games to cure a boy's blindness in one eye.  And it worked.

The boy had severe lazy eye syndrome in right eye (amblyopia, to be technical), which basically means that eye doesn't track at all.  Says his mother, "he could not identify our faces with his weak eye".

The cure?  "two hours a day playing Mario Kart on a Nintendo DS [... with] a patch over his good eye to make his lazy one work harder."
Life would be so boring if the human eye captured reality accurately.

Top 10 finalist of the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest

Koukichi Sugihara
Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of
Mathematical Sciences, Japan
Note: RPI put out a press release today (4/29/2010) on my work today so I am reposting this with today's date also.
The idea that the blind have a more acute sense of smell than the sighted is a myth, according to an ongoing study at the Université de Montréal. Vision loss doesn't enhance the sense of smell, researchers say, blind people just pay more attention to how they perceive smells.

"If you enter a room in which coffee is brewing, you will quickly look for the coffee machine. The blind person entering the same room will only have the smell of coffee as information," says Mathilde Beaulieu-Lefebvre, a graduate student at the Université de Montréal Department of Psychology. "That smell will therefore become very important for their spatial representation."
In Writing As Superpower I outlined how writing is for the eye, at the expense of the hands, despite the fact that our brains may have evolved to comprehend speech. We still prefer to 'listen' with our eyes, despite our eyes not having been designed for this.   In Harness The Wild Eye I showed how non-linguistic visual signs are a visual system designed to recognize objects and efficiently react to the information. 

To begin to grasp why using object-like visual symbols for words is a good strategy, consider two alternative strategies besides the objects-for-words one.