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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  February 28, 2016 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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my car. >> stahl: most of us take for granted that we can instantly recognize people we know by looking at their faces. but imagine for a second what life would be like if you couldn't. >> no idea. >> don't have a clue. >> stahl: couldn't recognize yourself in a mirror. >> this is a problem i have been having. >> stahl: faces. >> yes, faces. >> stahl: that's what life is like for people who suffer from a mysterious neurological condition called face blindness, or prosopagnosia. does anybody know what that is? it is someone in your family. it is your daughter. >>i'm steve kroft. >>i'm lesley stahl. >>i'm bill whitaker. >>i'm scott pelley. those stories on this special edition of "60 minutes." mmm, this turkey is natural? yeah. it's too good to be true. not again. real estate never goes down. fact. we'll have the baby,
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>> pelley: it was benjamin franklin who wrote, "nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes." turns out, with taxes, that may be true, but not so much with death. in america, the job of ultimately accounting for who is dead or alive belongs to the social security administration, which compiles something called the death master file. there are about 86 million names on this national list of the deceased. and it's deadly serious business because when you're added to the file, that means that banks, the i.r.s., medicare, law enforcement and the like scratch you out of existence.
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flawed. as we first reported last march, a lot of people who pass on don't get on the list, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars in fraudulent payments to people standing in for the departed. and then, there are those who are on the death master file who are very surprised to hear that they're dead. how many of you have been declared dead by the federal government? all of you. you're looking pretty well to me. this would be a seance, except these are living, breathing americans that we conjured up from around the country, all declared dead by the social security administration. don pilger passed away when he tried to report the death of his wife. this is a form from the social security administration. the idea was you were going to call this number and essentially report that your wife had passed. >> don pilger: exactly. and that's what i did on the
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eight days later, i went to access my bank account and it was... they kept saying, "invalid pin." so i went to the bank and i give the lady the problem i was having. she typed my numbers into the computer and she grabbed my hand, she says, "mr. pilger, i don't believe this. they reported you deceased and not your wife." >> pelley: kristina pace's life was cut short at an early age. >> kristina pace: i was in college, i walked into the bank to open up an account, and same thing. "we can't help you." "well, why?" "you're coming up as deceased. you need to go to social security office." and i did. but just randomly, years later, it would come up. i'd want to get a car or something. "oh, no." "oh, let me guess. i'm dead?" so... >> pelley: betty denault was summoned to her social security
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like an epitaph. >> betty denault: and she pointed on the screen up in the corner and it said, "d.o.d." and i said, "what does d.o.d. mean?" and she said, "date of death." and i said, "well, how did you come up with this?" and she said, "all it takes is somebody to input on the computer the wrong numbers. and it just makes a big difference, of course." >> pelley: most people never find out how it happens, but when the federal computer says you're dead, you might as well be. the terrible news is relayed by the government to banks and credit agencies. judy rivers told us she had $80,000 in her accounts, but when she tried to use a bank card at a store, they assumed she was an identity thief. you couldn't get access to your bank accounts. you couldn't get a credit card. how did you live? >> judy rivers: well, for a time, i lived in my car. and i couldn't get an apartment. i had my debit cards, which were, of course, no good.
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consequences, and was actually taken to jail and questioned because they thought i was an identity thief. >> pelley: you ended up arrested? ended up living in your car because of all of this. >> rivers: for six months. >> pelley: you had been eliminated from the human race. >> rivers: cyber ghost. >> pelley: cyber ghost. >> pilger: cyber ghost. >> pelley: judy rivers now haunts a borrowed camper in alabama, and while her finances were ruined, she found that the government makes a tidy profit selling the death master file to credit agencies. so, word of her death was nearly immortal in dozens of databases, and it came back again and again. she protested to a credit agency called chexsystems for what seemed like an eternity. >> rivers: finally, chexsystems responded to me and told me to send my information in and they
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sent it to them over 20 times. >> pelley: they would consider whether you were still alive. >> rivers: correct. >> pelley: we looked in the alabama vital records office for rivers' death notice, but it's not there. no one seems to know how she got in the federal death master file. god may judge the quick and the dead, but it's the states that collect the data. they pass it along to social security, and there is plenty of room for error. record bureaus get death notices from doctors, hospitals, funeral homes, or families, and every state has its own rules. perhaps because the dead don't vote, many of the states don't spend much keeping tabs on them. this is the state of alabama vital records vault. it is a place so secure that you need a key and a fingerprint to get inside. but once in here, the technology becomes pretty 19th century. these are death certificates from 1912, for example.
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paper records in here. now, the state of alabama is moving toward an electronic system, and it's about 60% of the way there. but there's so little funding around the country for that kind of transition that there are about a dozen states in america that do not have a statewide electronic filing system for death records. how accurate is the deh master file? >> patrick o'carroll: i guess, the best way to say it is as accurate as it can be. >> pelley: patrick o'carroll is the social security administration's inspector general. his office investigates how the death master file is used and abused. >> o'carroll: right now, the death master file has in it about 86 million records in it, and it gets about two million records every year from the states. and we're probably, as with everything else, as strong as the weakest link, in terms that some states are reporting electronically, have very good data. and then with other states, it's
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so again, there's going to be 9some falling through the cracks there. >> pelley: but o'carroll told us that live people "falling through the cracks" isn't what keeps him up at night. the much more costly problem is in the millions of americans who do die and are not recorded. your office found that social security had no death data for six and a half million people over the age of 111. do you really believe that there are six and a half million people over the age of 111 in this country? >> o'carroll: no, and in fact, that's why we did the audit on it. what we were finding is that people that were over 112 years of age were opening up bank accounts, and it got us suspicious. and we found that 6.5 million was not recorded as being deceased in ssa's records. >> pelley: how many people are over the age of 111 in this country? >> o'carroll: i'm thinking ten. >> pelley: most federal agencies depend on the death master file,
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coming. we wondered what that would add up to during the course of a year, but it turns out, no one in the federal government is keeping an overall count. the best we could come up with was a few reports from individual agencies. for example, the department of agriculture paid farm subsidies and disaster assistance to more than 170,000 dead people over six years. that came to $1.1 billion. the office of personnel management paid dead federal retirees a little over a billion. and in 2010 alone, the i.r.s. paid more than $400 million in refunds to the dead. social security doesn't know how many retirement and disability checks are cashed by the relatives of the dead, like sandra kimbro. >> sandra kimbro: i'm a... a wife, a mother, a grandmother,
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>> pelley: like a lot of people, she took in her aging, ill mother, and had a joint bank account with her. when her mother died, the disability benefits kept coming. when did she die? >> kimbro: she died... 1984. >> pelley: when she died, did you report her death to social security? >> kimbro: i did not. >> pelley: why not? >> kimbro: i thought perhaps it would have been taken care of by the funeral director at some point. >> pelley: were you surprised that these benefits kept coming to you? >> kimbro: no, not initially, because i had had a conversation with my mom prior to her death that i would be entitled to the benefits. so i had just assumed and went along with that, thinking that i was entitled. >> pelley: and what did it come to? >> kimbro: over a 30-year period, $160,000. >> pelley: though she took the checks for three decades, otherwise, sandra kimbro is no one's idea of a thief. she and her husband had good
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retirement, a solid middle class life, and raised two children. but then came an unexpected call from social security. the investigator from social security must've asked where your mother was? >> kimbro: oh, well, i explained to him immediately. i didn't try to say that she was alive. i said that she was deceased. >> pelley: social security suspected as much because it is using a clever new tool. >> o'carroll: so, we go to medicare and see if anybody hasn't been to medicare for three years. and if they haven't been, we then, you know, try to go out and make a phone call to them, see if they're, you know, still here. also, we look at people that reach 100 years of age, and try to reach out and see if they're, you know, doing well. >> pelley: sandra kimbro's mother would have been 93 and hadn't used medicare in 30 years. kimbro was charged with theft, pled guilty, and is now looking at at least a year in prison. she spoke with us, she said, to
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no criminal history. haven't done nothing wrong, lived a good life, did everything i was supposed to do, be a law-abiding citizen, and succumbed to this human error. and this is where i am. and obviously, "felon" is not compatible with the other three things that i said, but it is my reality. >> pelley: inspector general patrick o'carroll says that social security is managing about 150 convictions a year, a fraction of the total. but it adds up to about $55 million in fraud. >> o'carroll: what we're trying to do is get the word out there, is, if you do take it and you're not supposed to do it, we're going to find you, we're going to arrest you, and we're going to get the money back. >> pelley: over the last decade, o'carroll has made 70 recommendations to social security to reform the death master file. but he says there's little sense of urgency. is part of the problem here that, in washington, $50 million or $100 million a year just isn't a very big number?
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you bring that up, because i deal in very big numbers. about $2 billion go out every day. so, when you start taking a look at percentages of $2 billion, that's what to you, me, to a general taxpayer is going to be extremely large amounts of money-- really, percentage-wise, is small compared to what's going out every day. >> pelley: as for the living who've been declared dead, social security told us "we work very hard to correct errors when we learn of them." the agency said that its error rate is only one third of 1%. but that still adds up to about 9,000 americans killed off by the government each year. for them, it can be a long road to resurrection. it took judy rivers five years. and today, she carries a few credit cards, and something else. you carry a letter around with you... >> rivers: all the time. >> pelley: ...everywhere you go. what does it say? >> rivers: it's from the social
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updated once a month. and it says that... who i am, what my social security number is, that i have been mistakenly declared as deceased in the past, and that that is not correct, and i'm alive and well, or at least alive. >> pelley: and you have that updated every month? >> rivers: every month. >> pelley: why? >> rivers: because when you get to about three months, people look at the date and say, "well, this is old. you know, you could've died since then." >> pelley: after we first broadcast this story, senators ron johnson and tom carper introduced a bill to ensure that improper payments to the dead stop, and the living stay off the death master file. the bill passed the committee and is waiting to move to the senate floor. as for sandra kimbro, she is a
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>> leslie stahl: most of us take for granted that we can instantly recognize people we know by looking at their faces. it's so automatic, it almost sounds silly to even say it. friends can put on a hat, cut their hair, and still we know them by their face. and we can do this for thousands upon thousands of faces, without ever giving it a moment's thought.
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life would be like if you couldn't-- if your wife or husband looked like a stranger; you couldn't tell your kids apart; you couldn't recognize yourself in a mirror. as we first reported a few years back, that's what life is like for people who suffer from a mysterious condition called face blindness, or prosopagnosia, that can make it nearly impossible to recognize or identify faces. if you've never heard of face blindness, you're not alone. chances are your doctor hasn't either. it's been unknown to most of the medical world until recently. hearing about it can feel a little like entering the twilight zone. but for people who are face blind, the condition is very real. jacob hodes is one of them. he's 31 years old, he has a college degree, has had great jobs, and he seems perfectly normal. just don't ask him to identify
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we're going to put up the first one. ...even very famous ones. >> jacob hodes: no idea. >>stahl: we showed jacob faces without hair, a pure test of facial recognition. >> hodes: no. nope. i can't say if i've ever seen that person. >> stahl: he's seen jimmy carter plenty of times. and knows michael jordan, too. >> hodes: oh, lord. >> stahl: he just can't recognize their faces. >> hodes: now, that's just impossible. >> stahl: can you describe my face? you're staring right at it. >> hodes: high cheekbones, light eyes. >> stahl: clearly, jacob could see my face, but he says if we happened to run into each other in a few days, he wouldn't know me from any other woman with short blonde hair. >> brad duchaine: they meet somebody, they have a good time with them, they have a nice relationship. then, a week later, they walk past them. >> stahl: brad duchaine is a professor at dartmouth college
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blindness for nearly 15 years. he says the hardest thing to understand is how people can see a familiar face but not recognize it. so he created a demonstration to give me a little taste-- faces turned upside down. >> duchaine: so here are some famous faces. you're going to be tempted to twist your head, but don't do it. >> stahl: okay. >> duchaine: you know, can you... >> stahl: boy, that is hard. >> duchaine: ...can you identify any of these people? >> stahl: i was completely at a loss. you think i'd know all of these people? >> duchaine: you've seen them all a lot. >> stahl: i don't know any of these people. i really don't. >> duchaine: you want to see them upright? >> stahl: sure. it was astonishing. with just that click, they became recognizable people before my eyes. ( laughter ) i know john travolta. i know morley. and there was denzel washington, jennifer aniston, sandra bullock. but the one that really got me was the young woman on the lower right-- my daughter.
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>> duchaine: yeah. >> stahl: i didn't know my own daughter. >> there she is. >> wow. so is this... am i getting a feeling for what people with face blindness have? >> duchaine: this is... when you look at that, there's clearly... there's a face there. >> stahl: oh, yeah. >> duchaine: there are parts. there are eyes. there's mouth. but you just can't put it together. >> stahl: wow. that's stunning. i feel terrible for them now. >> duchaine: yeah. it's really difficult. >> stahl: and largely unknown. prosopagnosia only got its name in the 1940s, when a couple of soldiers came back from world war ii with head injuries and couldn't recognize their wife or parents. and it took another 50 years for science to discover that people could be born face blind, like jacob hodes, and jo livingston, a retired teacher; ben dubrovsky, a software products designer; and meg novotny, a doctor. if i were your patient, we...
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discussing a problem. i come back the next time. >> dr. meg novotny: oh, no, no, no. you walk out to the window at the front and start checking out, and i walk out of the room and i don't know who you are. >> stahl: come on. she relies on patient charts, she told us. but there aren't any of those in ben's office, where lunch in the cafeteria can be tricky. >> ben dubrovsky: i was sitting down at lunch, having a discussion with someone about one of my projects, and the guy across the table gets up from lunch and says, "god, that's really interesting. when you have that meeting, can you invite me? thanks. see you." who is it? i don't know. >> stahl: who is it? >> dubrovsky: i have no idea. >> stahl: is it a memory issue? >> hodes: not only. >> jo livingston: the memory is never created. >> stahl: the face doesn't get put... >> livingston: it doesn't get filed. >> stahl: so they have to rely on other strategies to identify people-- hair, body shape, the way people walk, their voice, even style of dress. but jacob told us that it can all fall apart when someone changes their hair, like a
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couldn't find one day until she started putting her hair into her usual ponytail. >> hodes: and she, like, put it into the ponytail, and once it was in place, that was sylvia. it clicked. then, she took her hair back out of that ponytail. >> stahl: right then and there? >> hodes: yep. she just put it in and then took it out and... >> stahl: so she went from sylvia, not sylvia, sylvia, not sylvia? >> hodes: she disappeared. >> stahl: come on. >> hodes: yeah. >> stahl: to him, it was as though her face had changed into someone else's before his eyes. >> hodes: so now, i'm confronted with this situation that... that got weird. because i knew this person was sylvia, but it didn't feel like sylvia. >> stahl: faces mean so much to us-- identity, beauty, character, a place to hang all our memories about a person. faces have captivated artists forever, so it may surprise you to learn that the man who painted these faces, renowned portraitist chuck close, is also face blind, and severely so. let's say you went out to have dinner with somebody, and then you saw her the next day. >> chuck close: wouldn't
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>> stahl: and yet, he has spent his career, even after a collapsed spinal artery left him mostly paralyzed, painting, well... faces. chuck close has face blindness and he paints faces. >> close: the reason i think i was driven to it was to... to take images of people that matter to me, and commit them to memory in the best way i can, which is to slow the whole process down, break it down into lots of little memorable pieces. >> stahl: which is exactly how he creates these works. he can't make sense of a whole face, so he works from a photograph with a grid on it, and translates what he sees, square by square, onto his canvas. well, guess what we've done? >> close: i don't know. >> stahl: we put together a quiz for you. we brought some of our famous faces along to show him. >> close: from the chin, i think it's, um, leno. >> stahl: and were surprised that he did pretty darn well.
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think it's tiger woods. >> stahl: yeah, well, you're pretty good. but, of course, not perfect. >> close: i don't have a clue. >> stahl: that's tom cruise. >> close: right now, my guts are tied in knots because this very activity is the thing that makes me most nervous. "oh, now, i have to figure out who this person is." >> stahl: because he isn't recognizing these faces the way most of us do. every face is a puzzle he has to solve. >> close: what i'm thinking? you don't see too many people with just a mustache anymore, so that means it's probably somebody who's not alive. so, if it's an african american of a certain age with a mustache, it... it might be martin luther king. >> stahl: you're amazing. you deduce, deduce, deduce. you're like sherlock holmes here. >> close: yeah, this is how i get through life. >> stahl: of course, he knew we were showing him famous faces. with our group, we threw in a
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daughter. does anybody know who that is? >> no way. >> stahl: jo? work on it, because it's somebody that jo knows. >> livingston: well, it may be, but nothing's coming. >> stahl: it's someone in your family. but still, she didn't get it. it's your daughter. now, can you see it? is it clear now? >> livingston: it is believable now. >> stahl: we were baffled that a condition so extreme, it could keep people from recognizing their own children, could have been almost completely unknown until very recently. we asked dr. oliver sacks, the famous chronicler of fascinating neurological conditions, who passed away last summer. he wrote about face blindness in his latest book, "the mind's eye." >> dr. oliver sacks: it is with our faces that we face the world. >> stahl: how do you explain
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identify this problem? >> sacks: it is not usually a complaint of people. people do not bring it up. many people who are color blind do not know of it until they take an army medical. one sort of assumes that other people are the way one is. >> dubrovsky: it never, ever, ever in my life occurred to me that people would look at a face and just get it like that. >> livingston: i believed that i was not good with people. but i had no idea of the reason. i just thought i was stupid. >> stahl: jo only learned there was such a thing as face blindness when she stumbled across this article, and came in to be tested in duchaine's lab. a few hours after her second visit, in a bizarre coincidence, she and duchaine ended up attending the same event. >> duchaine: i kept placing my face in a position where she could see it. >> livingston: i realized that one of the group was staring at me in a way that people don't normally. >> duchaine: and so finally, at one point, i said, "do you know
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>> livingston: ah. >> duchaine: and she put it all together. >> stahl: duchaine had seen face blindness in action; jo had seen the missed connections of her life. >> livingston: if that had been anybody else, they would have been presumably furious, would not have spoken to me, and would have probably never have spoken to me again. but i would never have known they were there. >> stahl: yeah. >> livingston: it made me realize, "how many times have i done this?" >> stahl: right. "how many friends have you offended? how many people aren't talking to you and you don't know why?" >> livingston: and we'll never know. >> sacks: people do think you may be snubbing them or... or stupid, or mad, or inattentive. that's why it's so important to recognize what one has, and to... and to admit it. >> stahl: which is exactly what sacks himself has just done-- written about the fact that he, too, is face blind. >> sacks: i have had difficulty recognizing faces for as long as i can remember. my problem extends not only to my nearest and dearest, but also
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i've sometimes had the experience of apologizing to someone, and realizing it's a mirror. >> stahl: no. >> sacks: i have, indeed. >> stahl: no. because you didn't know it was you? >> sacks: i... i could see that it was a large, clumsy man with a beard. now, i've now found a way of dealing with this. i have one special feature. i have rather large ears. ( laughs ) if the large, clumsy man with a beard has extra large ears, it's probably me. >> stahl: i shouldn't be smiling, but it's funny. >> sacks: well... well, it is i... i mean, these things are both comic and serious. >> stahl: and surprisingly common. recent studies show as many as one in 50 people may be face blind. and the search is on for clues inside their brains. we'll show you what the research is finding, plus, would you believe, super-recognizers... >> i would say mike wallace. >> stahl: that is mike wallace. ...who never forget a face... >> i don't even know how to get
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>> stahl: ...when we come back. for the past 27 days, four men have outlasted authorities by making their getaway in a prius. this game ends now. to catch a prius, you've gotta be a prius. guys, what's that? oh, man. toyota. let's go places. look, the wolf was huffing and puffing. like you do sometimes, grandpa? well, when you have copd, it can be hard to breathe. it can be hard to get air out, which can make it hard to get air in. so i talked to my doctor. she said... symbicort could help you breathe better, starting within 5 minutes. symbicort doesn't replace a rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. symbicort helps provide
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>> stahl: no one knows what causes lifelong face blindness. it was discovered so recently, scientists are just beginning to unravel its secrets. and some of the clues are coming from people who once had normal face recognition, but lost it after suffering damage to part of the brain. and in an interesting twist, those people are also offering insight into the way the rest of us recognize faces. imagine waking up after a trauma and not being able to recognize the people closest to you. that's what happened to colleen
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up until the fall of 2009, did you have any trouble recognizing faces at all? >> colleen castaldo: no, not at all. >> stahl: like everybody else? >> castaldo: like everybody else, yeah. >> stahl: that all changed late one night when colleen had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. her doctors found a brain tumor, and did surgery to remove it, but as she recovered, she started noticing that something wasn't right. >> castaldo: the nurses-- i thought that i was meeting them each for the first time. and then, i would, you know, listen to them and think, "i don't know, they... they were acting like they knew me already." >> stahl: oh, disorienting. she figured it was the medication, until her close friend doreen came to visit wearing white, and colleen assumed she was part of the medical staff. >> castaldo: i looked at her, i smiled, and i turned back to my husband and started to talk to him, and he stood up and said, "doreen." and i looked and thought, "doreen"? and then, it hit me. i knew right then and there, this is the problem i had been having, that i... >> stahl: faces.
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>> stahl: now, even faces she knew well before... >> castaldo: no. >> stahl: okay, well, that's george clooney. >> castaldo: oh, wow. no, i wouldn't know that. >> stahl: ...are a mystery to her. >> castaldo: no, i don't know who that is. who is it? >> stahl: the president. brad duchaine showed me an mri scan of colleen's brain. is that a hole in her brain? >> duchaine: that's right. it's in the right temporal lobe. >> stahl: so back here. >> duchaine: that's right. >> stahl: and the location of that hole where the tumor had been was a clue-- if removing that area caused the loss of face recognition, could that be where all our brains process faces? it turns out that neuroscientists have been trying to figure out how it is that our brains recognize faces for decades. >> nancy kanwisher: face recognition is a very difficult problem, because all faces are basically the same. >> stahl: m.i.t. neuroscientist nancy kanwisher. >> kanwisher: there are these two roundish things here. there's this thing there. there's this thing there. they're all the same.
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from another is a very computationally difficult thing, because it's those subtle differences in the same basic structure that distinguish one thing from another. >> stahl: and it is exactly those subtle differences face blind people like jo livingston miss. >> livingston: i could describe anything that i can put into words-- eye color, general overall shape, whether your ears stick out. but those things would bring it down perhaps from the population of the world to a few million. >> stahl: so, she could say this person has dark eyes, high cheekbones, an oval face, which would allow jo to distinguish her from this person. but this face and this face? impossible. >> livingston: i can say what i can see. but i cannot say the micro- measurements that are what tell a normal person that it's you and not somebody of the same specification. >> stahl: but how is it that the rest of us can perceive these
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similarities? an important clue comes from what we can't distinguish-- as we saw earlier, faces upside down, like these two duchaine showed me, which looked very similar. >> duchaine: maybe you don't even see that there's any difference. >> stahl: i see something different in the lower lip. eyes are a little different. >> duchaine: but then, if i show them to you upright... so, here's the one that you saw on the left there. looked perfectly normal. and then... >> stahl: oh. >> duchaine: here's the one you saw on the right, you saw upside-down. >> stahl: oh, my goodness. the eyes and mouth in the photo on the right had been turned upside-down. >> duchaine: and now, the face looks really grotesque. >> stahl: wow. >> duchaine: but... >> stahl: but upside-down... >> duchaine: upside-down, it's really hard to see that. >> kanwisher: if you look at a face upside-down, you're very bad at recognizing it. if you look at a word or an object or a scene, you can recognize it fine upside-down. >> stahl: so what did that tell you? >> kanwisher: it tells you that there's something very special about face recognition. it works in a very different way from recognition of everything else. >> stahl: and that got kanwisher wondering if there might be a
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just for seeing faces. she started putting people with normal face recognition into m.r.i. scanners and watching what happens in their brains as they looked at different images. this is what she's seeing? >> kanwisher: yeah, this is what she's seeing. >> stahl: she's seeing faces. >> kanwisher: exactly. and now, she's seeing objects, because we want to know not just what parts of the brain are active when you see faces, but what parts are more active when you see faces than when you see objects. >> stahl: kanwisher discovered that there was indeed a place in the brain that becomes very active when we look at faces. >> kanwisher: in every subject, boom, there was this nice, big response there. it was very exciting. >> stahl: and it was right in the same area where colleen's tumor had been. it's called the fusiform face area. so could that be what's missing in people with lifelong face blindness, like jacob hodes? kanwisher put him in the scanner to find out. >> kanwisher: i really did not expect to see a fusiform face area. >> stahl: so you thought there'd be nothing there-- like as if instead of having a bullet go
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>> kanwisher: that's right. that's right. >> stahl: and? >> kanwisher: and we looked at the data and his face area was beautiful. it's textbook. >> stahl: she scanned jo, ben, and meg, as well, and they had fusiform face areas, too. so what does that say to you? >> kanwisher: it tells us that the problem is not that this thing doesn't exist. there it is. but see, that's the fun of science. it's fun to be told you're just completely and totally wrong, because now you have to go back and, you know, think anew. >> stahl: and one thing she and other researchers are thinking about is a phenomenon as mystifying as face blindness-- its polar opposite, super- recognizers like jennifer jarett, who say they recognize almost every face they have ever seen. waiters? >> jennifer jarett: yes. >> stahl: salespeople? >> jarett: yes, yes. >> stahl: oh, like, of course. >> jarett: yes, absolutely. yes. i'll be walking down the street and i'll see someone, and i'll think, "oh, retail."
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okay, that person works at... as whatever store, and that's where i... or they used to work at that store ten years ago." and then, i remember. >> stahl: ten years ago? >> jarett: yes, yes. >> stahl: so, they're... it doesn't matter how far back you saw these people? >> jarett: yes, yes. >> stahl: so, as long as you look at a person and take notice, they're in there. >> jarett: i... i don't even know how to get rid of people. >> stahl: only a handful of super-recognizers have been discovered so far, and duchaine and his colleagues had to come up with a whole new way to test them. >> duchaine: so here are three faces here which you're familiar with. >> stahl: i am? it's called the "before they were famous test," because super-recognizers can also recognize faces as they change through time. >> duchaine: does that help at all? >> stahl: you sure i know that person? >> duchaine: that's dick cheney. >> stahl: oh, my god. that's dick cheney? he told me the top right was richard gere, and the bottom, nancy pelosi. those three people have changed dramatically. ( laughter )
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one-- he's now an actor. and i'm supposed to know this actor? clearly, i am not a super- recognizer. >> duchaine: that's george clooney. >> stahl: man. and these super-recognizers just know this? >> duchaine: the supers are really good at recognizing these faces. >> jarett: george clooney. >> stahl: how could you tell that was george clooney? >> jarett: it just looked like george clooney to me. oh, prince charles. oh, madonna. michael jordan. >> stahl: the o.j. simpson trial. wow, you are good. but we thought we had finally stumped her with this one. >> jarett: if i were to guess, i would say mike wallace. >> stahl: that is mike wallace. she recognized the late mike i don't even understand how you do that.
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>> jarett: as people age, i guess the aging process somehow, in my brain, just seems very sort of superficial. and, you know, as if... if someone gets a haircut, you... you can still recognize them. it's still the same face to me. it's just the adult version. >> stahl: so why is 60 years like a haircut to her, while face-blind people can't recognize someone they just saw? a team of scientists at harvard has begun scanning the brains of super-recognizers, too, to see if they might yield any clues. the science of facial recognition is in its infancy. but new discoveries can't come fast enough for one last person we'd like you to meet-- 13-year- old tim mcdonough from boston, who is severely face blind. so, can you describe what it feels like when someone comes up? you know you're supposed to know who they are... >> tim mcdonough: i usually just say, you know, "hi, nice to see you." >> stahl: so, you... you sometimes pretend. >> mcdonough: yeah. >> stahl: you fake it. >> mcdonough: i fake it, yeah. >> so, you think it's not your mom?
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your mom. >> stahl: tim is working with the harvard team to see if they can help him learn to recognize his mother's face. >> now, is this one your mom or not? we could start at the top. we could do eyebrows, eyes, nose, we could even use the cheeks there. >> stahl: it's part of a pilot program to see if face blindness might someday be treatable. >> mcdonough: this one's a little bit harder. >> stahl: so far, it's not. >> mcdonough: i don't know. i just hope that nobody tries to talk to me because, if they do, they... >> stahl: they want to talk about something you've done with them or something. >> mcdonough: yeah, and i don't know who they are. >> stahl: so it must be really hard to make friends. >> mcdonough: it is, yeah. takes me a while to make friends. >> stahl: it turns out making friends can be tricky at both ends of the face recognition spectrum. super-recognizers can seem like
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>> jarett: i would see someone, you know, weeks or months later at a party and people would say, "oh, do you know each other?" and i'd say, "yes." and the other person would say, "no." and i'd say, "no, don't you remember the first week of classes, you were walking to english class with someone..." ( laughs ) and people would look at me really strangely and sort of uncomfortably, i think, a lot. >> stahl: jennifer says she's now learned to take cues from others, ironically, just as face blind people do. >> hodes: i'll play this eye contact game where i'll wait. i'm not going to really look at you, but i'll wait to see if you look at me. and then, "oh, you look at me. oh, look. oh, hi." >> stahl: so, you're always waiting for a cue from them. >> hodes: yeah. so i'll hang back a little bit, which i don't want to do. >> stahl: in any social situation, are you always a little anxious? >> sacks: i'm more than a little anxious. and i... i tend to keep my mouth closed before i make some awful blunder. of course, another tactic or strategy is to smile at
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close told us he does. >> close: you have to be really charming. if you are going to insult them by not remembering them, you just have to be extremely charming so that people don't hold this stuff against you. >> stahl: do you feel now that you're missing out on something? >> dubrovsky: oh, yeah. >> novotny: yeah. >> dubrovsky: definitely, i notice a loss. i understand someone by an abstraction. i put together a set of information that, to me, means "mother" or means "lesley." >> stahl: but it's not a visualization of a face. >> dubrovsky: and the question... the thing that i wonder next, you know, is how does it affect even things like love? >> stahl: how does it? >> dubrovsky: when people talk about love they say, "i carry the person with me. i carry their image with me." i don't carry their image. does that mean i experience it differently? and how would i ever know? i don't know. >> hodes: there's a long tail of stuff that happens that you're missing, connections you're not making. >> stahl: still? >> hodes: oh, yeah.
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>> novotny: at least now we understand why. >> hodes: yeah, right. >> novotny: and it's therapeutic, but it doesn't fix it. >>announcer: for a look at how "60 minutes" reports its stories, along with interviews with correspondents and producers, go to: 60minutesovertime.com can't afford to let heartburn get in the way? try nexium 24hr, now the #1 selling brand for frequent heartburn. get complete protection with the new leader in frequent heartburn. that's nexium level protection. here at persil... the top notch team of stain experts has performed over ten thousand stain evaluations to prove persil delivers a premium clean.
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>> pelley: in the mail this week, viewers wrote about "the hostage," our story of an american, warren weinstein, who was abducted and held for ransom in pakistan and his wife elaine's efforts to free him. weinstein, an economic development worker employed by a government contractor, was accidently killed in an u.s. drone strike while being held by al qaeda. a florida viewer felt "60 minutes" was wrong to report the f.b.i. advised mrs. weinstein on how to pay the ransom, while u.s. law forbids that. "the hostage should not have been aired, you did not help other captives! broadcasting fbi and u.s. government positions only aids the terrorists."
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"while i fully understand the pain, mourning and loss that mrs. weinstein feels, i firmly believe that anyone travelling into the most dangerous places on earth must do so of their own free will and with no expectation of rescue." d. michael johnson new york, ny and then there was this: "any of us is sad when our citizens die abroad at the hands of a gang of terrorists .but the interview made our government seem to be responsible for his katherine nelson brookfield, wi i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with a brand new edition of "60 minutes." tomorrow, be sure to watch "cbs
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