«Recognizing» Familiar Faces vs. «Seeing» Creative Solutions

«Look at you lot. You’re all so vacant. Is it nice not being me? It must be so relaxing.»

Going through notes about possible postings, I saw two notes in quick succession: «Face Recognition» and «Seeing Creative Solutions and Conversations with yourself» (a different take on Seeing Creative Solutions). The first is about the problem of false alarms when you have difficulties recognizing faces (prosopagnosia) and the second about people who lack an inner voice and people who just «see» creative solutions (in front of their inner eye).

It reminded me that I had the idea to connect the two, as they might be related. It’s only a suspicion and not my area of expertise, but the idea goes a bit like this:

Up until third grade, I sat in the front row in school and still had to look at the person sitting next to me to get any idea of what was written on the blackboard. It took my parents (and me) a while to notice that my eyesight is really bad (the teacher though I was cheating during classroom tasks and started the process of getting glasses).

And perhaps (only a suspicion) that is the reason I still have problems identifying people by sight. With contact lenses or glasses, I can see very, very well. Seeing the details in people’s faces is no problem, but I do not automatically recognize them. Recognizing a person, even a family member, is not an automatic process for me. I don’t look over a room and immediately «just recognize» those I know (kinda like immediately knowing whether you like the taste of something or don’t). It’s a more deliberate process that takes into account where I am and who should be there. If it’s a familiar environment (e.g., work, home) then this process is hardly noticeable (I have difficulties, but I am not completely face-blind). On the street where I could met anybody it’s not pretty. It does take time, and as it is deliberate, it is error prone. And I am very conservative when it comes to then «recognizing», i.e., visibly indicating that I (think I) know, the person.

Because when it comes to what is worse — more embarrassing and cringe — not recognizing a person (miss) or thinking you know the person but it’s a stranger (false alarm) … the false alarms are much, much worse. After all, if you do not recognize the person, usually nothing happens. People might feel overlooked or even shunned, but it has no immediate negative consequences. But falsely addressing a person as an acquaintance or colleague … yeah, not good.

And yeah, that sucks. The usual avoidance strategy (for me) is simply not looking at other people, which works «fine» given that I also enjoy spending time in my head. Additionally, if someone knows me they usually say something and I find it much easier to identify people by their voices. (The downside is that I then hardly look at faces and prevent becoming more familiar with them.)

To come to the other note, this situation made me wonder after reading that some people do not have an «inner voice». They do not, cannot talk with themselves. Which explains why some people have to talk to think (yikes). But it also made me wonder whether this «not being able to recognizing people well by sight» might have some benefits (yep, back to the first note). Because thinking about it, most if not all of the ideas I have … I do have visually. I just «see» the, or rather, a solution. Things I want to create, or even simple solutions to problems. Or take the example from Seeing Creative Solutions, when a page was blown out of an office window (high above ground). It was still on the ledge outside the window but out of reach of any arm span. I just «see» the scotch tape and the umbrella and how to connect the two and use it to get the page back. There’s no thinking involved, the/a solution is just there, kinda like recognizing people should work. I do not have to mentally combine all objects in the room to look for a working solution, it is just there. Automatically. Think «Ally McBeal», just more constructive.

It makes me wonder whether the neurons usually used to recognize faces weren’t partly used to see how things could work, be improved, problems be solved. Hmmm, and if that is the trade-off, yeah, sucks not being able to recognize people well. But given what I can see instead, I think I got the better end of the deal.

Hmm, and yup, that also would mean that I am not really responsible for any ideas I have, they just occur automatically, whether I want to or not. I am much more skeptical though, because I think you can kill creativity by not acting upon (the good) ideas. By not cherishing one’s ideas. And yup, these thoughts could also lead to centipede trouble.

«I’m afraid of coaching, of writer’s classes, of writer’s magazines, of books on how to write. They give me ‹centipede trouble› — you know the yarn about the centipede who was asked how he managed all his feet? He tried to answer, stopped to think about it, and was never able to walk another step.»
Robert A. Heinlein

Ah, the dilemma of having an idea that might kill ideas. Anyway.

But yeah, not recognizing people and seeing other things instead, might be worth some research.