Thursday, April 9, 2009

Something I want you to understand

I was thinking on the way from the library to Brooke's apartment (where I am now) and so now I want to explain precisely why race does not matter to my brain.

My brain works differently than the brains of other people. One way it works differently is that - by default - it processes other people as objects rather than as people, unless there's something unique about a person that stands out to me. With nothing to make a person stand out to me, my brain basically ignores strangers to varying degrees. Because of this, I can literally see someone one minute and not recognize them a minute later.

It doesn't even matter what color skin color one has - if you're a stranger to me, my brain is most likely going to process you as an object regardless of skin color. It's not that all whites or all blacks or all Hispanics whom I don't know look alike to my brain on this default setting, it's that EVERYONE looks the same to me by default.

However, if someone stands out to me, it forces my brain to switch gears and actually pay attention and process the person as a person. In person mode, I can memorize a person's face perfectly in less than 30 seconds. With nothing to force my brain to switch gears from "objects" to "people," it can take hours, days, weeks, even months (depending on various factors) to remember a face. Which is really odd because I have the ability to instantly memorize places visually. It's like places and people are both objects by default, but places are far more interesting to my brain than people are.

Things that can get me from object mode to people mode can be anything - jewelry or other objects on their person that I find particularly cool (especially pagan jewelry), unnatural hair colors (pink, purple, etc), or if they were nice to me or interesting to me on some level. Then the memorization of faces becomes almost instantaneous, and is generally permanent.

I know this because I can see actors or actresses once and, if they stood out enough to me, I recognize them years later even if they've aged a lot... even if they were children when I first saw them.

There's another oddity about how my brain works. Sometimes I will remember groups thanks to one or more members, but not remember everyone in the group, so that if the ones I don't remember on their own come in on their own, I (of course) don't remember them. Because I'm a child at heart and keep wishing I could be a child physically again (only with the proper gender that time around), I tend to pay a lot more attention to kids than to adults. So the most common way this "memorizing a group by one or more members and not others" thing manifests is memorizing a group by their children. One case in particular at my last job, this pair of parents had a girl who looks like a young Michelle Tractenberg. So every time they all came in together, I instantly knew them. But if one or both of the parents came in on their own, I had no idea who they were unless something they said or did reminded me about their daughter.

One good thing about the combo of my ability to instantly and permanently remember faces when my brain gets into "people" mode plus my tendency to notice children, I could potentially save some kid by spotting them and recognizing them from a missing person's flyer.

Well, that's all.

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