The bit about structuring conversations in a way to tease out if the other person recognizes you resonates with me. It can be fun, in the sense of being a challenge or game, once you get used to it. Now I'm older and more "over" myself, I'll often just admit if I don't recognize you now.
I don't think I have what this woman has to the same degree, but I have a condition which causes me to fail to remember social and physical situations in any easily recallable way which results in similar problems.
I wish it was easier for people to “come out” with their deficiencies. I’m miserable on the phone for example. I just can’t really communicate unless I’m looking at the person on the other end. Yet there are a lot of circumstances where there’s no other option, chief among which is discussing business opportunities. It’s stupid. Videoconferencing has been out there for 15 years, yet people are still not willing to accommodate such a minor request.
I remember attending a party once and introducing myself to someone who, it turned out, I had met and had an extensive conversation with about an hour earlier. I totally didn't recognize this person.
I don't have full-on face blindness. I do recognize the faces of people I see a lot. But I still struggle to remember people's names, especially if I don't see them every day.
I hesitate to write this, but it seems that face-blindness could be related to autism spectrum. I know someone who is diagnosed on the spectrum and has face blindness and feels the social anxiety of it in much the same way as the author. Also, the author describes several behaviors that are on the spectrum.
I also noticed that many of the anxieties described by the author were projected and not materialized. She was afraid of how people would react and how she would feel in awkward situations, but when it finally happened and she admitted her condition, it went fine. Shyness and social anxiety have an element of self-fulfilling prophecy.
You really have to wonder, from an evolutionary perspective, how and when this skill became so modular and specialized, that mostly everyone is born with this innate capability.
If you take this idea, that facial recognition is a modular specialization that most humans have inherited at birth (such that it can be added or subtracted from a person's instinctive skills, leaving everything else more or less untouched), and cross it over to other species, I'd take a wild guess that this is the missing piece in animals that fail to recognize themselves in mirrors.
Comparing elephants and dolphins with dogs and cats, it's tempting to contemplate that while dogs and cats can become familiar with us, they're likely face blind. Elephants and dolphins, while capable of passing mirror self recognition tests to a certain degree, are probably not as adept, because they lack the same socialization demands that have intensely pressured humans for a couple thousand years.
I have to figure in earlier periods of human history, an inability to recognize individuals, especially in similarly peopled enclaves might have been supremely deadly. Not just boss-in-the-elevator deadly (as mentioned in the article), but literally stab-you-in-the-back deadly.
So much so, that we aren't born with other skills like capable of walking directly after being birthed, like other animals, but for the most part, by age three, if we can recognize faces, we can pick our parents out of a line up.
We know literacy and written language is a hard driver of civilization. I wonder how much, the innate capacity for human facial recognition plays into the ability to read text? It seems like dyslexia is related to the degree of rendomization of the pattern of receptors in the eyes, but facial recognition seems strongly bound to processing and memory.
Is it a prevailing trait that predates history, or is the capacity to record history, and history's emergence and fidelity concurrent with the prevalence of human facial recognition as almost pure instinct?
Furthermore, imagine a world where the selective pressure is removed, and the trait is replaced by an augmented reality product, a device that recognizes people for you. How easily ruled would those people of the future be?
I have a mild version of this - usually I lean on a person's trappings, context, or they might hit a sort of LRU cache. In a crowded situation though all bets are off. Makes dating difficult - I've walked past girlfriends multiple times. Even if you try to disclaim this Prosopagnosia thing, there is a sort of innate offense you give when you don't recognize someone. The eyes give it away. Also if I look you up and down I'm not (necessarily) checking you out, I'm looking for distinctive characteristics.
The Wikipedia list of (famous) people with face blindness is super interesting. Chuck Close (who cites it as inspiration for his portrait work), Jane Goodall, Markos Moulitsas, Oliver Sacks, Woz...
I have a child with this issue. He doesn't live with constant stress over it. I had not really thought about how well we accommodate it. The article was eye opening in that regard.
We've learned lots of tidbits over the years that help him feel okay about it. For example, normal people are more reliant on context than they realize and can fail to recognize someone out of uniform or met someplace different than the norm.
For example, see Person Swap:
On the opposite spectrum of face blindness, there has been recent progress in the field of identifying "Super recognisers".
Super recognisers are able to remember faces very well and score high on the Glasgow Face Matching Test.
I had a girlfriend who was faceblind. She had to explain this to me once, as she walked right by me in a library we were meeting at, as I had cut and dyed my hair.
She had some autoimmune diseases and believed/had read up that her face blindness was likely an effect of the chronic pain she dealt with.
I might have a mild face blindness. I was never diagnosed, and might never be. This has never affected me in any way (other then a few awkward interactions). I am able to recognize people as soon as the start talking, sometimes I can even recognize people when they start moving. I also recognize people by their clothes, hair, etc.
My wife was the first one to notice I might have this condition (and yes it has happened more then once that I don’t recognize her). This is despite the fact that I have a BS in psychology and had read a lot about face blindness in university. It just never occurred to me that I might have this. Those awkward moments I mentioned earlier, I usually blamed on me not paying attention, being stupid, shy or something else.
I have a similar problem and have never been able to figure it out: random people look like people I know. Nearly every day I see someone who I'm sure is someone else. What I have to do is stare at them very pointedly, and if they look away I know it's not someone I'm acquainted with. It feels to me very similar to the way the author describes her condition, only it's sort of opposite in a way.
Sorry I don’t know how to word this but why would it be upsetting if people asked her questions about living with this?
I’d like to know just so I can be more sensitive in the future. I’d have never thought it would be a problem and would have asked way too many questions. Is this unique to this case or something I should avoid in general?
Very interesting article. Too bad google glass didn't catch up, or we could set up reasonably inconspicuous face recognition to help these people. Otherwise, I guess they could have a hidden camera somewhere on them and a (wireless) earbud that tells them who's in front of them.
Is there a corresponding condition where you know faces, but cannot match them to names?
I knew a guy with this. I also have a friend who looks rather like me.
One day we both sat down in class next to the face blind kid. Face blind kid went out to the bathroom. lookalike and I swapped seats and exterior clothes (jacket, watch etc). Hilarity ensues.
The author calls her face-blindness “mild” and “not as severe”; I wonder what severe face-blindness entails?? How do you recognize less than the author?
I have a small bit of difficulty with faces that my ex-wife made me aware of. Since then, if I don’t recognize someone I may say, “Sorry, I’m bit bad at faces,” and this seems to go over well. I also sometimes say this to cut short conversations about “who my kids look like.”
Is there a good test for this I could take (preferably online)? I suspect I have a mild case and would like an objective test.