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November 10, 2017


Brilliant post. Don't know if you saw this, but this LGM post touches on some of what you say and as a bonus, there's Tolkien!

Here's my memory anecdote. My memory is eidetic if it is in roman letters. I read books and I can often remember where on a page a quote is. I discovered this after I finished in Japan and came back to grad school and threw myself into Thai. Then, I went back to Japan and restarted on Japanese after three years, I'd gotten the rust off, but it still was not where it was. But in moving my office, I found my thai notebooks and I opened them and could not read anything. Not a thing. On the other hand, I visited Vietnam for 2 weeks and then 5 years later, came back and could still read signs.

Of course, I took Thai because I thought I was good with languages and I'd gotten Japanese down, so what was another alphabet. I was an Idiot. If I'd taken Vietnamese (it was offered, but Thailand seemed a lot safer and they presumably 'liked' Americans in a way that I assumed Vietnamese didn't. Let me say again. I was an idiot)

The idea of a memory palace depends on a haptic sense, with location dictating where memories are located. I've always had a good memory without relying to that, so I'm curious if you or other folks actively pursued using that technique or if it came naturally.

The lack of maps in China Mieville's Bas-Lag series always bugged me.

i usually think of a map in a book as something like a part of the book's outline, part of the author's working notes. i rarely consult the map, but i like knowing that the author was working from a plan.


It's not really a "haptic" sense as I understand it, because it's not related to the sense of touch. It's a sense of one's whole body in space ... maybe? It's a combination of physical orientation sense and vision, it seems to me.

I read books and I can often remember where on a page a quote is.

This is extremely common. It's actually one of the big problems with e-books, especially as textbooks: the lack of spatial cues makes it harder to remember what's in them.


Does it bug you for the same reason it would bug me, because it makes it harder for you to keep track of the characters & settings?

As I've often found with philosophers, however, he's not terribly good at grasping that not all human beings think in the same way. Because he, like most philosophers, has an extremely verbal or linguistic intelligence, his theories about intelligence in general are very language-focused, in a way that struck both Mr Dr Science and me as bollocks.

This puts me in mind of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis as I was taught it in college. (I'm told that linguists have walked it back a lot since.) It held that you could not think about something if you didn't have a word for it.

Which struck me at the time as obvious nonsense. After all, you invent things because you can imagine, i.e. think of, something which doesn't exist and for which, typically, there are no words -- leading to inventors also creating new terms to describe what is going on. But I figure linguists, at least then, were so caught up in words (philosophers have nothing on them!) that they couldn't imaging how others thought about things.

I love books which include a map. To the point that, when I'm reading a series that moves around, I will keep the volume with the at hand, so I can look at where the characters are going. (I'm also one of those people who has something like a dozen atlases, and a couple of globes, in the house.)

The biggest problem I have with those maps is that authors often seem to be pretty bad with maps. Not in the Mr Dr S sense, but just in the sense of having very little clue about details like mountains generally existing in chains, rivers flowing out of mountains (not arising at random in the middle of a plain, etc. Impossible cartography bugs me . . . even if I like what the author is doing with the story.


The Bas Lag novels aren't like some massive epics (Malazan, ASOIAF, etc.) with several concurrent storylines. It was not hard to follow the story without a map, but every reference to another place or people or to local geography would distract me.

With a map, I can place the reference in context and move on. Without a map, it's like an earwig that I can't shake.

Sometimes that terra incognita quality can enhance the story if the characters are also in the dark, but when I know less than the average character, it really bugs me.

FWIW, fans of the Bas Lag novels made some maps that are easy to find online.

Also, I'm a fan of world building SF and fantasy, so I'm approaching the map issue from that heading.


With a map, I can place the reference in context and move on. Without a map, it's like an earwig that I can't shake.

Same for me. And then when there's a later mention of that place, I can't recall it, so context doesn't build.

it's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

I'm very much a structural thinker, and I like context. So I love maps. And I love maps in books - fiction and non-fiction. Not just geographical maps, either - pathway diagrams in science, decision trees, linguistics maps that show how different languages evolved, etc. For me to really learn something, I have to put it into a structural context. Re maps in sciencce fiction and fantasy, I've been known to sketch out maps on my own just so I figure out how things fit together.

I desperately need maps, but not for this reason. They don't help me understand or remember characters or events or the nature of places at all.

Instead, like Mr. Dr., I lack some sort of map module, and also almost always turn the wrong way. So if I'm reading something - fact or fiction - where the locations of things, the places battles are fought, the path or duration of a journey, etc. are important, I can't follow it without frequent references to maps.

IMO history books never have enough maps.

Thanks doc, maybe the word might be proprioconceptive?

And thanks for the link, I did not realize that it was so common. I tend, when I see an article about how the new technology is going to be so bad for life, to skip it. I realize that there might be some truth in those articles, but I'm up to my neck trying to figure out how to use the new stuff...

I worried a lot more about this 5 years ago than I do now. I don't read fiction as such, but I do consume a lot of umm native media that to some degree assumes a knowledge of geography, or so I assume. 5 years ago I was diligent in looking up the geographical relations of Kanagawa or Kanazawa or Kagoshima* or Lille or Lyon or Lourdes to Tokyo or Paris.

*Kanagawa ~ Sagami/Musashi;Kanazawa ~ Kaga;Kagoshima ~ Usumi/Satsuma. Since I consume a lot of historical material, I encounter the Tokugawa period names without explanation at least weekly. This goes double for Tokyo neighborhoods, changing in names and borders over several hundred years.

More recently I either just skip over what the reference might mean, or try to get a feeling from internal clues for what is meant socially or psychologically or what pragmatics by the ref, like "far away" or "past edge of civilized world" or "really boring place."

"We're not in Kansas anymore Toto" doesn't require geographical knowledge to understand.

But generally I think I do have a fairly good sense of direction and geographical intuition.

And I suppose it just accumulates over time, in ways that can't work with one shot fictions. Ten years ago I thought Nagasaki was somewhere around Kagoshima, and couldn't keep track of Izu vs Ise, or Sapporo vs Hakodate. I am still much better the farther away they get from Kanto/Kansai ie central Japan, which can get historically complicated.

And checking, I already screwed up above. Kanazawa is a city not a prefecture. I draw blanks on about 1/3 of them, and Ishikawa of which Kanazawa is the capital is one of them.

Izu and Ise were/are peninsulas. But even if I couldn't place these on a map, and they are relatively close, I kinda have a feel for the cultural difference between "weekend in Izu" and "going to Ise" mean in contemporary Japan. Sometimes.

Don't worry, a lot of prefectures have their capital city with the same name, which is why you probably thought that.

For my 6th dan test in iaido, my teacher made me learn all the pre Meiji domainal names, which at first I balked at, as I generally knew them, but spending some time memorizing them was great for a lot of things to see linkages

This goes back to our thread about schooling, I was trying to read the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and was making no progress. A friend who is a fluent Chinese speaker said I should make a map or several maps to help place things. Unfortunately, who has time to do that? Well, if you are a student, yeah, that's the sort of thing you do that seems like busy work, but it really helps. Unfortunately, if you aren't interested in it, it can seem a lot like busy work.

Lovely post, Doc.

On the method of loci:

My first introduction to this notion was in a talk by Jerome Lettvin at an IAP seminar when I was a sophomore at MIT 40 years ago. The seminar was on "archaeoastronomy and astromythology" and it introduced the precession of the equinoxes into my mental universe. But Jerry Lettvin's talk, titled "The Gorgon's Eye", was the most memorable part.

Lettvin's theme was memory -- oral memory in particular. How did ancient people remember (and transmit to posterity) things like astronomical observations, before they had writing? By mapping them on to familiar things, Jerry explained -- the characteristics of the molluscs of the Mediterranean for instance. In the myth of Perseus with his winged sandals and helmet of invisibility, fighting the Gorgons with their evil eye and snakes for hair, Lettvin pointed out the correspondences between elements of the story, features of the squid, the octopus, and the sepia, and features of the constellation Perseus like the "blinking" star Algol and the diamond sword, aka the Perseid meteor shower. No way can I do justice to Lettvin's argument by summarizing it. But it was published (along with the other talks in that seminar) in the December 1977 issue of Technology Review if you care to read it. (Not for free, alas.) At the most all I can do is quote the closing paragraph:

It is dangerous, too, because you are sure to go too far when you attempt to reinterpret myth. I myself have gone much too far in this article, and so can be accused of making my own myth to render memorable the sundry places in the sky. I am not offended by that charge at all. If you find the story of the octopus, Algol, and the Gorgon Medusa irritating enough to recall, I will have explained the ancient arts of memory more by illustration than by proof. Most of you, of course, may prefer a rational account of things, but I was never one to put Descartes before Horus.

On graphics in general:

I can't read tables (of numbers) at a glance. Show me a table, and I will turn it into a graph before I have anything to say about it. Thank FSM for Excel, says I.

On different kinds of memory:

Kinesthetic memory ("muscle memory") seems like a real thing to me. I suppose it may be considered a subset of "procedural" memory by anybody who never rode a bike, but I think of it as totally separate because I can talk myself through a "procedure" like the proper sequence (engine off, handbrake on, shift into first gear, foot off the clutch) to shut down my car.

And then there's my occasional exercise in extracting a name out of my brain when I can see the face as clearly as if I was looking at a picture. I call it a pre-Alzheimer's test. There's a definite method to it, for me -- a sort of exhaustive search in which I resort, when all else fails, to going through the alphabet consonant by consonant to fill in the blanks when I can vaguely remember what the name "sounds like". When the right synapses finallly fire, it turns out half the time that the name didn't "sound like" that at all.

The human brain is a weird thing.


Great post, Doc. I too love maps of places real and unreal, and I usually have a rough map of wherever I am in my brain. One of my kids does not have that module, and it took me a while to realize that no amount of explaining on my part was going to change that.

I don't have/use GPS, because why would I give up studying maps when I want to go on a trip? The only thing I do think I'd appreciate it for would be advance warnings of lane changes when driving in a place like Boston, where, if you don't know where you're going, you're so very very screwed if you're in the wrong lane at the last minute, because no one is going to let you in. But I rarely drive in Boston anymore, so there's that.

The long-ago shift from grid-like midwestern towns to squiggly New England gave my map-loving module a lot to chew on.

Once, in a class I took in Cambridge a few years ago, there was a woman who had just moved there from Seattle and kept trying to describe where things were by reference to "toward the river" and "away from the river." It seemed to make sense in her brain but it didn't translate well to mine.


Also -- Tony P. -- that was a fun comment. Mention of Jerry Lettvin brings back memories; I did "Self-Designed Fitness" with Maggie when I worked at MIT. They were quite the couple, she tall and statuesque and a fitness guru, Jerry short and round and often with a cigarette in hand. It seemed to work -- you never know.

I do the same thing you describe in your next to last paragraph when I can't remember a name. Sometimes it works (and sometimes, as you say, the name doesn't "sound like" that at all), sometimes it doesn't. I've got some years on you, that's probably why. But sometimes it works better just to stop thinking about it -- to "look away," as it were -- and then my brain dishes out the name in its own good time.

Per bluefoot's comment on structural thinking -- to that list I'd add family trees. I love the family trees in the LOTR appendices and in The Silmarillion, and also the one in Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. I made my own sketch for her Love Medicine so I could keep all the relationships and generations straight.

One of the many projects I will probably never get to is to write a family tree "program" that will let me systematize all the ancestry I know about for my own family, with a "zoom" functionality and other cool stuff. Maybe in retirement, although I suspect that if I ever manage to retire I'm not going to want to fill my time with coding projects. ;-)

I've never really liked maps in fantasy, as they so often conflict with the version of the author's world I've built in my own head (which is surely part of the appeal of fantasy).
It's the same thing as TV or movie adaptations of fantasy disappointing... the only way I can happily watch them is by persuading myself it's a different story.

To go off at a tangent, the Atlantic has a great long read article excerpted from Kurt Andersen's new book:
Having different rules for consuming/addressing fantasy and reality is, I think, important.

Like JanieM, I seem to automatically build a map in my head (or these days, borrow one from Google Maps) of the area where I'm at. Also surprised when I meet people like Mr. Dr. who don't do that.

I know when I started doing it. At age eight, out in the woods hunting with my father one day, he asked, "Where's the car? How would you get back to it?" I didn't know, and then he added, "So if I step in a hole and break my leg, you can't go get help? We just sit here and starve?" Suddenly I took a much bigger interest in where we were going, landmarks, etc. The next hunting season when Dad asked, I could point and say, "That way, three ridges."

My wife is a not-map-builder. She's also generally in the category that Sherlock Holmes (I think it was Holmes) described as "you look but you do not see." I've always wondered if the two are related.

James Melton

(engine off, handbrake on, shift into first gear, foot off the clutch)

You (or someone who doesn’t already know this) should consider second gear. If you or anyone else gets in and tries to start it, forgetting to depress the clutch pedal, it won’t jump nearly as much. But your car may be fancy and have a safety switch to prevent that, in which case “never mind.” Somehow, none of the manual-transmission cars I’ve owned have had that feature.

I love maps. As for fictional ones, I’ve found the map for Game of Thrones to be helpful in remembering stuff (and for realizing how inconsistent travel times are for the sake of plot convenience).

An alternate theory for the cognitive tendency to build maps in your head is one that I encountered back in the day when I was managing an R&D group. Some psychologist claimed people could be divided broadly into two groups: people who saw patterns in technical work and people who did not. The paper on the subject was about the difficulties when the two types encountered each other in manager-managee situations.

Exaggerating... Pattern-seeing managers, according to the author, were frustrated by non-pattern-seeing subordinates who approached problems by methodically working through their accumulated cookbook of methods until they found one that worked. Non-pattern-seeing managers were terrified by their pattern-seeing subordinates who would say "We can solve this problem by a NEW method." The visual image the author used always stuck in my mind: that the pattern-seeing subordinate appears, to the non-pattern-seeing manager, to leap off a cliff in the fog and miraculously land someplace safe.

There's a definite method to it, for me -- a sort of exhaustive search in which I resort, when all else fails, to going through the alphabet consonant by consonant to fill in the blanks when I can vaguely remember what the name "sounds like".

i use an alphabet trick too. i go through the alphabet one letter at a time (vowels, too) and 'hear' if my target word starts with that letter or not. sometimes takes several passes. it works most of the time but it sure is tedious.

i have a minor talent for recognizing voices. so, in voice-overs for commercials or voice acting in animation i can, quite often, identify the person after just a few words. and it usually works even if they're doing a character and not using their regular voice (ex. Mel Blanc always sounded like Mel Blanc, and Billy West always sounds like Billy West even when he's doing the red M&M or Fry or Stimpy). but i don't always recall the actor's name. so, i sometimes have to use the alphabet method to come up with the actor's name (when IMDB isn't handy).

I've never been much of a one for looking at the maps in the front of books, fantasy or others, although in books where the lineage and names are complicated, I certainly have checked (and re-checked) family trees. The map-module in the brain is a real thing though - I have a close friend who has it to a spooky degree. e.g. one look at the Paris Metro diagram (adduced for its difficulty) or any other map and she has always been able to reliably find her away around and know where she is in relation to everything else while I and all others have been left floundering in her wake. However, interestingly and sadly, she told me a few years ago that she was worried she might be getting Alzheimer's or similar (complicated by memory problems as a result of Sleep Apnoea), and one of the only two signs I saw of it was that her map facility had disappered, and made her more like a normal person. The other sign is that despite a lifetime as a moderate, Reagan-worshipping Republican, she fell hook-line-and-sinker for the Tea Party, and then (after an initial spasm of disgust) for Trump. This latter may be very unfair of me.

However, on maps. I have become mildly obsessed by the kind of beautiful, old maps that have "legends" (short descriptions) on them, under place names. The only one I actually own, having tracked a copy down after seeing it years ago, and finally having the money for it, is John Speede's "A Newe Mape of Tartary" from the 1622 edition, which I found by putting into Google the following legend which I had never forgotten: "Heaven Town, where the King of China hath his kingly seat". It has a marvellous depiction of the Great Wall, and other wonderful legends, e.g. "Pliny placeth the Perosites here, whom he saith to be so narrow mouthed that they live only by the smell of rost meat beleeve it not".

I would attach the (wonderful) image, but have still not learnt how to do that so it fits properly. This is a link to it, and if you click on the image you can see detail, including the legends:


From the Atlantic article that Nigel links to:

The great unbalancing and descent into full Fantasyland was the product of two momentous changes. The first was a profound shift in thinking that swelled up in the ’60s; since then, Americans have had a new rule written into their mental operating systems: Do your own thing, find your own reality, it’s all relative.
I wonder how much of that '60s shift was due to the widespread use of hallucinogens. Especially among the college students who would become the next generation of elites.

It's interesting the different ways that people's memories work.

I do great with maps, but have a terrible time with names and faces. (I managed one time to go blank on my wife's name when introducing her. We'd been married for 4 years at the time!) These days, I suppose I could try passing it off as "senile decay", except that it's been true for decades. I just got accustomed, or maybe hardened, to having people come up and treat me like an old (close, even) friend, while I had no recollection of ever having met them before. Sigh.

I suspect that I inherit some part of that from my mother. She was fine on our names when talking about us. But when addressing us, she would frequently run thru all of our names, my father followed by all of us kids in age order -- leaving out the one she was addressing and tacking it on the end. I got accustomed to being addressed as "Don, David, Judy, John, Bill." (Obviously she knew, on some level, what name she wanted, in order to get it on the end.) And yes, she did it to my sister as well -- not sure what she thought of being called "Don, Bill, David, John, Judy". ;-)

wj, that's so familiar! My dad used to do that, only he did distinguish the names by gender. So, if he was addressing one of us (I had two sisters and so did he), he might run through all the names, including my mom's, before he got to the right one. It's kind of funny, now that you've described it and I'm thinking of it, that the name wanted almost always came at the end of the full list instead of, say, second or third. Or maybe we just didn't notice when he got it right the first time, because that would be "normal."

A (perhaps related?) phenomenon that I perpetrate as I get older -- and I'm not the only one I've seen do this -- is that I say the wrong name sort of generationally. For instance, I might say my youngest sister's name instead of my daughter's name, or my brother's name instead of my son's. It's like there are archetypes in the brain (youngest child, younger female relative, whatever) and the names are of lesser importance... Even though, the whole time, I know exactly who I'm talking about, as did -- I'm sure -- my dad, and as you do.


Our brain puts names in "bundles". When distracted, it is completely normal for the brain to just grab one of the names in the proper category and go with it.


As a dog person, I endorse the following:

So your family dog typically gets filed with other family members. This of course sparks the question — what about your family cat?

"You are much more likely to be called the dog's name than you are to be called the cat's name." Deffler says.

This implies that psychologically, we categorize the dog's name along with our family member's names, according to Mulligan.

"And we don't do that with cats' names, apparently, or hamsters' names or other animal names," Mulligan says.

At the end of the series of names she was running through, my mother included our dog's name! We never took it too personally.

I have something called Propopagnosia, sometimes called Face-blindness. I haven't got it as badly as some (people I have heard of who don't recognise their children, wives etc) because I recognise people I know very well, but movies which rely on a last minute visual revelation of the villain (e.g. Jagged Edge) being someone you've seen and known all along, has me urgently asking "Is it him? Is it him?". I seem to use certain cues to recognise people (scars, funny haircuts/colours etc) IRL, but it is far from completely reliable. Strangely, I seem to be good at recognising certain celebrities, even when seen from the side or three quarters on. It's all very weird. Sigh.


Recognizing faces is apparently a specialized brain function. Some folks are better than others.


I took this test:


and confirmed that I'm as bad at recognizing faces as I thought.

"I never forget a face, or a name. Except usually."

the second part of that face test was tough!

i got a '58', slightly better than average. but i'm sure i guessed at about 1/2 of the faces on that last section.

I was only better than 3 out of 10 test takers.

My wife was similar to you ... better than 6 out of 10.

My score was 38. "Higher than zero out of [number] people who took this test." [emphasis added]

Somehow, I am not surprised.

I got a 64, better than 9 of 10. I sometimes recognize an actor in a movie because I saw him/her in a TV commercial a year earlier. My wife thinks it's weird. But if I'm meeting you for the first time and you tell me your name, I will forget it almost as soon as you're done saying it. Once I know a name, I don't forget it, but it's very hard to get it to stick in the first place.

58. I think I'm worse at it than I used to be. A lot of people look very familiar these days, like I've seen them all.


I thought I was pretty good at faces, but that's only a bit over average.


all of those bald guys look alike


I got a 47 which was higher than I would expect.

55. A little better than expected, because I think of myself as having a lousy visual memory. Maybe I should adjust "lousy" to "mediocre."

To the extent I'm self-aware (?) I think of myself as having a very strong verbal memory, so I turn visual experiences into words. When someone is wearing a yellow tie, or has a buzz cut, or carries a plaid umbrella, I remember (if trying to recall) those descriptions far more than the actual tie, or hair, or umbrella.

So if I don't take such "notes," I'm hopeless. The teenage boy of friends had at some point his hair down to his shoulders. I've seen him frequently; my wife has not. When she asked was his hair still that long, I honestly could not tell her. I guessed, based on my general impression of him most recently - just a few days earlier - no; then I saw him again a couple of days later, I saw his shoulder-length hair as it always had been, only this time I REMEMBERED it.


62, though I'm convinced my emergency detached retina surgery kept me from a higher score.

It's funny how they all looked like Vulcans to me.

Possibly interesting anecdote: I got glasses in the summer after 2nd grade when the teacher (Mrs. Carmody) suggested that I needed them because she noticed that my math answers were incorrect not because I was doing them wrong but because I was copying them down incorrectly. My mother scoffed at the notion until one day, the air force major who lived across the street was coming and when I saw him I said 'mom, the plumber is coming'. I think I've said this before, but I remember telling my mom that it was the first time I could see leaves on trees.

Supposedly, there is a link between myopia and intelligence,

But for my memory, it is like night and day. I can't remember the people in my second grade class, I can almost fill in the entire roll of my third grade class. I have one or two memories of 1st and second grade, but from after the point I got my glasses, I really can't count how many events and things I remember from that point.

Got a 64, too.
I suspect I'd score as well, or better, on a similar test for voices - which is perhaps less common ?

FWIW, I am utterly hopeless at recalling names even when I know quite well and recognise someone
For instance, for years I used to mix up the names of Charlton Heston and Charles Bronson - which is not the same thing at all as mixing the two actors up - to the extent of being able to recall one of the names when looking at the other actor, but maddeningly being unable to remember the correct name...
...and I can forget someone's name within ten seconds of being introduced to them if there is any distraction art all.

and I can forget someone's name within ten seconds of being introduced to them if there is any distraction art all.

i'm terrible with names.

where i work there are two managers on my floor, both middle-aged white women with blondish hair. i interact with them occasionally. their faces don't look alike at all. i've worked there almost six years now and i still have to work to get their names right. and i'm sure i mess it up sometimes.

...and I can forget someone's name within ten seconds of being introduced to them if there is any distraction art all.

My problem is that being introduced to someone is the distraction.

I had a temporary position at work a few years ago during which I was in a supervisory role and had to review and approve everyone's time in the department. I would see everyone's name over and over again in writing. I didn't know all these people personally. I was in another part of the company from my regular position. (My reviewing and approving their time was a bit of a farce, since their immediate supervisors did that already with actual knowledge of their work hours. I mostly just made sure there were no math mistakes.)

At any rate, having these names in my head already made it much easier to remember someone's name after meeting in person, because I only had to attach the face to something that was already established in my memory, as opposed to "checking the person out" while also trying to put their name in my head.

That's one reason I think I can't remember names of people I meet. I'm to busy processing "What is this person about?" to store name data. And maybe a big part of trying to absorb as much of the person as I can is face-reading.

(None of this is a matter of conscious effort, mind you. It's just what happens.)

Michael Cain,

An alternate theory for the cognitive tendency to build maps in your head is one that I encountered back in the day when I was managing an R&D group. Some psychologist claimed people could be divided broadly into two groups: people who saw patterns in technical work and people who did not.

I don't know that I'm convinced. I'm seriously lousy with maps and directions and so on, as I mentioned above.

But I'm fine with seeing patterns in problems, how they are like seemingly unrelated problems, etc. At least with abstract matters this is no issue at all for me. With patterns and inter-relationships of actual physical objects it's harder.

byomtov, how are you on those silly intelligence tests where you're supposed to look at an unfolded shape, and identify which of the folded objects it could be?


I'm lousy.

It occurs to me that this test may not be quite measuring what it thinks.

For example, if you can eliminate one of the three choices, random guessing among the two remaining will get you a score of 50 -- not that far from the 54 that they say is usual. (And random guessing itself will get you a 33 -- not that far below my 30 ;-)

So I think perhaps what they are measuring is not the ability to recognize faces so much as the ability to exclude faces from a pool.

will get you a score of 50

Is the numerical score simply the percentage of correct answers? I didn't see that anywhere (though I didn't look very hard) and wouldn't assume it.

I'd go back and find out if I didn't have to go through the whole thing again to get results to see if they explain the scoring there. They don't say anything upfront about it.

IMO, maps are needed more for nonfiction than fiction.

Some of my reading from Gutenberg Project titles had me looking up obscure islands near Tierra del Fuego and The Kentish Knock.

The last one sounds like it should be a pub, and perhaps it is, also, too.

Is the numerical score simply the percentage of correct answers?

didn't look like it to me. i remember it seeming to only go up to 70-ish.

GFTNC, the map you linked to is clearly of the style that the LOTR/Silmarillion maps are emulating, complete with right-angle mountain ranges. I kept looking for the entrance to Moria, but it doesn't seem to be on there.

My mother was an excellent navigator but never good with maps. She could, however, come up with clever back routes based on descriptions of other routes. I was the map person, and her ability amazed me. (I do have her proofreader's eye. I'll pick up a restaurant menu and zoom in on the one spelling error. My mother taught English.)

They've done a lot of interesting work on how the brain remembers stuff. There are place cells linked by distance and direction at various scales. There is evidence that the brain uses the same mechanism to navigate between the bedroom and bathroom as between concepts, e.g. duck like birds versus heron like birds. The latest thinking is that the brain stores sequences of associations and derives place and time from the relationships. Exactly how it does this is probably idiosyncratic.

I gather that brain has a specific area for recognizing faces, but humans have co-opted it for recognizing letters and words. I can't recognize faces, but I can read and write upside down or in mirror writing. Ah, my misspent childhood.

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