The Superman/Clark Kent Syndrome
How to increase your chances your missing loved one will be found
I was watching a TV show a little while back and they decided to do an experiment to see how well people pay attention to missing persons flyers. The production people put several flyers of a missing child on the grocery store’s windows and doors. Then they had the child who, of course, was not really missing, walking around inside the store with her “dad.” Everyone could see the photos of the little girl before they went into the grocery store, but what they found was that no one connected the little girl in the store with being the same girl on the flyer.
I have thought about this for a while and wondered if I, someone who is always keeping an eye out for missing people, would have noticed that the little girl in the store was the same as the one on the flyer.
I remember about a year ago, looking at a picture of a missing girl and then coming across a video of her. All of a sudden, that one-dimensional image became obsolete compared to the laughing and talking video of her. I noticed how she would push her hair out of her face and tilt her head back a bit when she giggled. I knew that this video helped me recognize her in a way that a photo could not.
This may be why photos of people we don’t know don’t stay in our minds. We do not have the other “triggers” we need to turn the one-dimensional image into a real-life, breathing human. The photo just cannot give us the “queues” we need to turn a stranger into someone we would recognize walking down the street.
Many people laugh at the whole concept of my favorite superhero, Superman, who no one is able to recognize as Clark Kent. When you see him transform, you also see his personality transform. The “queue” that we use to help us recognize people, their voices, and their actions are different between Clark Kent and Superman Clark Kent keeps his head down, avoids eye contact, and speaks in a quiet voice, where Superman has a deep voice, he walks straight and tall, and his confidence leaps out of every pore. It’s not all that improbable that we would not be able tell that these two men are the same man in real life.
For example, we see identical twins as identical. Combine that with their identical voices, and it is extremely hard to distinguish one from the other. But over time, as you watch their movements, the characteristics that are unique to them become blazingly clear. Now you are seeing all the differences between them. A mother can tell her twins apart, as she is unconsciously using her ability to recognize their mannerisms as a clue.
Then there is the case of Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped from her own bedroom. Her parents showed the media a picture of a calm, smiling, beautiful child. It is no wonder no one recognized her as she walked the streets with her hair underneath a scarf, intimidated by her abductors. After she was rescued, people recalled seeing her. At one time, the group she was traveling with was stopped by the police, but no one recognized her. Maybe if there had been videos of her, she would have been rescued sooner.
Dogs do not rely on their sight to recognize a person. They also have to smell the person before they can make a positive identification. Otherwise, that person is a stranger. I think that people are similar. A photo of a person is not enough for anyone to recognize a living, breathing person that they have never seen in person before. Unlike dogs, we don’t have to smell them, but we do need to see them move.
I believe that if the people in the grocery store had seen a video of the child, instead of a picture, they may have recognized her inside the store. This is why I believe that to help find missing persons, we need video. Take videos, lots and lots, especially of your children every few months. And if your loved one goes missing, post a video of them on You Tube. Give access to it to the media and police, and let others know your loved ones as you do, so they can help bring them home.