There have been a few interesting things popping up on the internet recently. One which I found really interesting was a story on the BBC about a woman with near-perfect memory for faces, which also mentioned the opposite situation - prosopagnosia, or faceblindness - the inability to recognise or remember faces. For those who have it most severely, this can mean that even family members are unrecognisable, but like so many things, there is a whole spectrum.
I found this really interesting, as one of the things I have always been very bad at is recognising people's faces, and therefore, being able to recognise people. It's something which a lot of people don't really believe - they tend to assume that you're just not trying, or are making excuses for having deliberately ignored them.
One of the links from the BBC story was to some tests which give you an idea of how good you are at this, compared with the average person. Of course, like anything else on the web, I'm sure that it needs to be approached with some caution, but it was very interesting all the same.
According to the test, the average person would score about 80%, on recognising unknown faces; My score was 61%.
On recognising famous faces (which is adjusted to take account of whether you know who the people are) the average score is about 85%. I got 29%.
On the plus side, I shall be fine should I ever bump in to Mahatma Ghandi, Elvis, Princess Diana or Margaret Thatcher....maybe I'm just better at recognising the dead (or nearly dead) which could come in handy if it turns out there is an afterlife. Of course, if the test were re-designed to cover 'famous people I'm actually interested in' I would probably do better - if it included, for instance, David Tennant, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones & Derek Jacobi I might have done better, although having said that, I didn't recognise Patrick Stewart...
I suspect that the better score on the first test reflects the fact that it is multiple choice, so you can potentially get some right by random guesses, and on the 'I don't recognise any of them but that looks very slightly more likely than the other two' principal.
The site also says that people with faceblindness often also have a poor sense of direction. Which is certainly true in my case (although my dad, who is very bad at recognising people, has an excellent sense of direction, so there are clearly variations!)
I'd be interested to know how anyone else scores...