View Full Version : Anybody know what Prosopagnosia is?


Lunacie
01-22-12, 08:25 PM
It's also called face blindness.

For years I thought it was nearly impossible for me to remember names.
To some extent, that's true for everyone. What made it more difficult for
me is that I believe I have face blindness - prosopagnosia.

If I'm expecting to see someone at a social event, I'm likely to recognize
them. But if I run into them unexpectedly in a different situation, I'll be
aware that they look familiar but I can't figure out who they are or where
I know them from. Even the people I live with, my family.

If someone changes something about the way they look, hair color, facial
hair, make up vs no make up - I might not even realize they look familiar.

Sometimes the voice will give me a hint as to who I'm speaking to, not
always. My ex had protrubent blue eyes, very distinctive, but after our
divorce as he began to show more gray in his hair and I wasn't seeing him
every day, I didn't always recognize him. And that's after being married to
him for 25 years!

Turns out this is much more common than was previously realized. Does
anyone else here have this problem?

trishcan
01-22-12, 08:48 PM
I have this problem to a degree that is absolutely humiliating, as in... I've literally failed to recognize my own mother in a store I was shopping at. I couldn't tell you what colour my best friend's eyes are. I'm terrifying of approaching people at work and elsewhere because I can never be certain that they are who I think they are. For months at this job, I defaulted to emailing people I needed to speak with and asking them to come find me. This made me probably appear lazy as all hell, but if the person wasn't at his or her desk, there was no way for me to pick them out.

I don't socialize much, and this is the primary reason why. I cannot be trusted to "meet up" with people--even those I know quite well--because I won't be able to pick them out of a crowd. Or at all. Again, I can compensate for this by suggesting that they pick me up, I pick them up, we meet at a specified location (where there is surely only enough room for the person/people I'm meeting), and so on... but it just makes me look like a control freak.

There is nothing I can say to a person that even comes close to excusing a failure to recognize him or her after knowing the person for years. It's embarrassing and terrifying and something I desperately wish I could change.

Lunacie
01-22-12, 09:00 PM
Yeah, the first time I realized that there was something really weird was
when I failed to recognize my own daughter - she was wearing a wig. It's
not like I have several children, she's an only child. But it sounds like
you've got it even worse than I do.

It shouldn't be any more embarrassing than any other disorder, it's not like
we're doing it on purpose or are just to selfish to recognize our friends and
family, eh?

trishcan
01-22-12, 09:34 PM
I've actually worried about that... That I could raise children I wouldn't even recognize. The weird thing about me, though, is that I tend to recognize children rather well across situations and even over time. I strongly suspect that this problem, for me, is compounded by the fact that I tend to avoid eye contact with adults, but find children less intimidating in that respect. I suppose failing to look a person in the face for longer than a split-second here and there makes it difficult to form a mental image. It doesn't, however, come close to explaining away the entire problem.

I realize it shouldn't be more embarrassing, but that doesn't change that for most of us... it is. People understand most disorders--even those with a stigma attached. I don't think people who haven't lived with this can really understand just how much misery it can generate. People always say, "I never forget a face" or "I'm bad with names." That's acceptable. Not recognizing people you see everyday... that suggests that you somehow don't care; that you're not paying attention. It's not something I'm comfortable disclosing to others, so they're left to draw their own conclusions. Prosopagnosia is not one they will normally consider, and for good reason.

dsvlil1
01-22-12, 09:44 PM
I have a friend who I suspect has this, I bumped into him out of the blue one day and it took him a good 15 seconds or so before he twigged as to who I was. It seemed so bizarre looking at the confusion on his face as if I'd just really tripped him up mentally.

Lunacie
01-22-12, 10:06 PM
I was reading earlier how it does seem related to being uncomfortable
looking people in the eye - but that's not the whole basis for the issue.

Psychomaze
01-22-12, 10:54 PM
I've actually wondered about that - it has embarrassed me more times that I can count and I find myself apologizing with the "I'm sorry but I don't remember names and faces very well..." I see that in most cases they remain polite and sociable, but I sometimes wonder if I hurt their feelings into thinking that they were so insignificant that they weren't worth remembering, ya know?

APSJ
01-23-12, 05:43 PM
This is a really horrible issue for me as well. In my case, it's due to visual memory issues.

It's particularly hard because the when someone fails to recognize another because they just didn't take note of them, or don't think of them as significant, they often give as an excuse that they have "a hard time with faces," so it's just assumed to be the polite thing to say to excuse your not having taken note of the person.

One example of this I think of a lot was when someone I worked with closely for about 6 months left the organization, and returned a few months later to see our director, I didn't recognize her, and when she got in the elevator and said hello to me by name, I said "hi" and kept looking ahead...because I really had no idea who it was, and she looked really hurt...still hate thinking how that must have come off...

Less significant interferences with functioning happen on at least a weekly basis.

fracturedstory
01-23-12, 06:25 PM
I have it too but regardless of whether they're at a social gathering or just bumping in to them if you change the scenery I won't recognise them. At a different haircut, clothing or more or less facial hair and I'll have a hard time remembering them.

sarek
01-24-12, 03:46 AM
I have this problem to such an extent that I have had to develop a smoothly running cover up procedure to hide the fact that I do not know whom I am talking to.

If its a client coming into the office I always hope they have a file or something else with them which they intended to give to me so I can grab it quickly and give it a quick scan while hiding the fact that I am doing that to see if there is a hint about their identity in it.

ginniebean
01-24-12, 07:40 AM
Lunacie,

I am terrible for this. I will know someone looks familliar but won't know how to place them, particularly if I see them outside of the place I met them, remember their names? Not a chance.


It is so embarrassing, and as sarek said, covering as much as it's elaborate in looking for cues to identity, I often just hope I'll catch a break.

Fortune
01-24-12, 07:53 AM
I have this problem to some degree. I mostly interpreted it as forgetting people's names, but it's definitely more than that. I mostly look for clothing, hair, and if applicable, facial hair. I can sometimes pick out facial features by themselves (like I can recognize Dominic Monaghan by the shape of his nose), but if you remove someone from expected context it does become a lot harder to recognize them.

I've seen actors change hair styles and outfits on TV shows from one scene to the next or even in the same scene (this happened somewhat frequently on Battlestar Galactica, for example) and been unable to recognize them. In the same episode. Or seeing the same actor on different shows. I get a sense of "familiar" and then I have to piece it together from hair, voice, etc. I am actually not too bad at this, as I started doing it as a kind of game in the mid-90s, as I had a lot of trouble identifying most actors before then. When I saw Star Wars, I had trouble telling the difference between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, as far as that goes.

I've also looked at celebrities with similar hair and facial hair and thought they looked similar, but others disagree, sometimes fairly strongly. Example: Eddie Izzard with a goatee and Tim Curry with a goatee - without the goatee, they look very different to me. With it, very similar, sometimes to the point I can't tell them apart. I thought Eddie Izzard was Tim Curry in both My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Mystery Men.

ADDinHDefgHi?!
01-24-12, 08:17 AM
I experience this a lot. I used to blame it on drinking but I don't drink anymore, you gave me something to think about!

It doesn't happen all the time but it's not uncommon for someone to say to me "I saw you the other day and waved but you didn't seem to notice me" Interesting....

Lunacie
01-24-12, 09:39 AM
I have this problem to some degree. I mostly interpreted it as forgetting people's names, but it's definitely more than that. I mostly look for clothing, hair, and if applicable, facial hair. I can sometimes pick out facial features by themselves (like I can recognize Dominic Monaghan by the shape of his nose), but if you remove someone from expected context it does become a lot harder to recognize them.

I've seen actors change hair styles and outfits on TV shows from one scene to the next or even in the same scene (this happened somewhat frequently on Battlestar Galactica, for example) and been unable to recognize them. In the same episode. Or seeing the same actor on different shows. I get a sense of "familiar" and then I have to piece it together from hair, voice, etc. I am actually not too bad at this, as I started doing it as a kind of game in the mid-90s, as I had a lot of trouble identifying most actors before then. When I saw Star Wars, I had trouble telling the difference between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, as far as that goes.

I've also looked at celebrities with similar hair and facial hair and thought they looked similar, but others disagree, sometimes fairly strongly. Example: Eddie Izzard with a goatee and Tim Curry with a goatee - without the goatee, they look very different to me. With it, very similar, sometimes to the point I can't tell them apart. I thought Eddie Izzard was Tim Curry in both My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Mystery Men.

Yeah, me too. I sometimes latch onto one thing to identify people,
without realizing what I'm doing. Latest case in point, Johnny Depp's
mustache. It's exactly like my ex's mustache.

Other than the fact they both have/had black hair, nothing else is the
same. My ex had protrubent blue eyes, Depp's eyes are dark brown.
My ex's goatee was really sad, Depp's goatee is only sorta sad.

I will sometimes hear a voice on tv or a movie and think I know who it
belongs to, but looking at the actor it just doesn't mesh and I'm left very
confused. Doesn't take much to alter the looks of some people. And then
there's me - I'm 40 years older than when I graduated from high school
and a bunch of pounds heavier, but when I run across people I haven't
seen in years they know who I am immediately.

Doesn't matter whether I've colored my hair or cut it or let it grow, they
still know who I am. I've always been so jealous of people who could do
that.

sighduck
01-24-12, 09:55 AM
. I couldn't tell you what colour my best friend's eyes are.

i have a seriouse problem with this one specificaly... ive been in converations with people and when the y ask me to describe them, the best i can do is " tall or short, or maybe skinny or ... rounded"

Fortune
01-24-12, 09:55 AM
I can't recognize Johnny Depp at all from one role to the next. He just looks too different in each. I remember watching Black Adder III all the way through before realizing that Prince George was also Doctor House (that is, Hugh Laurie). My sister, one of my nieces, and my nephew, on the other hand, identified him instantly.

Lunacie
01-24-12, 11:01 AM
I can't recognize Johnny Depp at all from one role to the next. He just looks too different in each. I remember watching Black Adder III all the way through before realizing that Prince George was also Doctor House (that is, Hugh Laurie). My sister, one of my nieces, and my nephew, on the other hand, identified him instantly.

:doh: Glad to hear I'm not the only one who can take that long
to recognize an actor in a different role.

Fortune
01-24-12, 11:08 AM
Oh, the actress Ali Larter - I definitely don't recognize her as the same person in Final Destination and Heroes. Or Resident Evil: Extinction.

Or comparing Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted to Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.

Fraser_0762
01-24-12, 11:26 AM
Facial blindness has never really been an issue for me. I do however have a difficult time recognizing voices over a phone (including close family members) and its quite embarassing at times when I ask who it is.... and they're like duuuh...

Lunacie
01-24-12, 11:35 AM
Facial blindness has never really been an issue for me. I do however have a difficult time recognizing voices over a phone (including close family members) and its quite embarassing at times when I ask who it is.... and they're like duuuh...

Ah ... yes! I don't know if there's a name for that, but I have that problem too.

K-Funk
01-24-12, 12:06 PM
Now I wouldn't say I have a SERIOUS problem with this, but there have been numerous times at work when someone comes up to me who clearly knows me and says my name and asks how I'm doing and I have NO IDEA who they are. I just smile and hope for clues as to what our working relationship is, lol. Eventually I get it down though. And eye color? I have no idea what anyone's eye color is. I've had plenty of girlfriends get upset at me for this...

This may be completely unrelated, but this topic reminds me of something that happens to me every time I open a book. Whenever I read a story, any story ever, I can't see the faces of the characters. I mean I actually really love to read and I can get into the story, enjoy it etc but I have NO IDEA what the charecters look like! I don't even know how I can follow the actions of individuals if I can't see them, but.....no one has any faces!!! :eek:

Does that happen to anyone else???:confused::confused:

Fortune
01-24-12, 12:11 PM
Another thing that may be related:

I have never experienced the "Uncanny Valley." When I first heard about it, I actually thought people were lying to me, or coming up with some ridiculous explanation to justify their negative reactions. One commonly cited example of this phenomenon is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. People told me the characters had "dead" eyes. After I saw the movie, I thought that if that were true, everyone must have dead eyes, because I couldn't see what they meant.

I don't mean the characters looked perfectly lifelike. But they didn't look creepy to me.

Another thing that may play a role is my aversion to eye contact. I can't even really look at pictures of people staring directly at the camera for very long, and I tend to focus on people's mouths if I do look at their faces.

Lunacie
01-24-12, 01:20 PM
Now I wouldn't say I have a SERIOUS problem with this, but there have been numerous times at work when someone comes up to me who clearly knows me and says my name and asks how I'm doing and I have NO IDEA who they are. I just smile and hope for clues as to what our working relationship is, lol. Eventually I get it down though. And eye color? I have no idea what anyone's eye color is. I've had plenty of girlfriends get upset at me for this...

This may be completely unrelated, but this topic reminds me of something that happens to me every time I open a book. Whenever I read a story, any story ever, I can't see the faces of the characters. I mean I actually really love to read and I can get into the story, enjoy it etc but I have NO IDEA what the charecters look like! I don't even know how I can follow the actions of individuals if I can't see them, but.....no one has any faces!!! :eek:

Does that happen to anyone else???:confused::confused:

Yes!!! Sometimes I will insert the faces of people from tv shows with
similar themes and picture the characters in the book looking like the
characters from the tv show. Ever do that?

TygerSan
01-24-12, 01:24 PM
There are degrees of this. . . I think I'm actually fairly good at remembering faces, if I'm actually paying attention, and the information gets in. . . unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Here's a research group that looks at these particular impairments, they have tests:

http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/

Fortune
01-24-12, 01:37 PM
I got 55% of the faces on the famous faces test (16 out of 29 familiar - I was not familiar with Tony Blair's face).

I either guessed perfectly accurately, or I couldn't tell who it was at all. Weird.

It is also the second time I've taken it.

TygerSan
01-24-12, 01:37 PM
Hmm . . . according to the results, I'm slightly below average . . . might have something to do with the fact that I don't really pay much attention to famous people or politics. . . oh well.

TygerSan
01-24-12, 01:39 PM
I either guessed perfectly accurately, or I couldn't tell who it was at all. Weird.


There were quite a few that I was staring at intently, *knowing* I'd seen the face before; trying to dislodge the label from my brain was painful, complete tip of tongue phenomenon. . . I think for a couple of them, if I'd had more patience and time, I might have gotten them.

Fortune
01-24-12, 01:40 PM
Average is around 85%.

Supposedly if you're below 50% you have facial recognition problems.

They had another test, but it was too easy to memorize certain features (like head shape) to guess correctly and it was multiple choice, although I wonder how much my time would compare to an NT's, and what process of recognition they'd use.

Fortune
01-24-12, 01:41 PM
There were quite a few that I was staring at intently, *knowing* I'd seen the face before; trying to dislodge the label from my brain was painful, complete tip of tongue phenomenon. . . I think for a couple of them, if I'd had more patience and time, I might have gotten them.

Random trivia: Tip of the tongue phenomenon is called "presque vu."

The first time I did it, I had several that were like that. I knew that I recognized them but I couldn't place who they were.

Lunacie
01-24-12, 01:48 PM
There are degrees of this. . . I think I'm actually fairly good at remembering faces, if I'm actually paying attention, and the information gets in. . . unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Here's a research group that looks at these particular impairments, they have tests:

http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/

Interesting link. I took the famous faces test - and did average. There
were some that I knew who they were, could name the movies they were
in for instance, but could not remember the name to go with the face.
Guess that's more on the ADHD chart, eh?

trishcan
01-24-12, 03:07 PM
i have a seriouse problem with this one specificaly... ive been in converations with people and when the y ask me to describe them, the best i can do is " tall or short, or maybe skinny or ... rounded"

Haha. This is a common occurrence in my life. I once had a last-minute change in my work schedule and my supervisor agreed to go stop by and check on my clients, as I was working across town at the time. She arrived at the building and a bunch of people were outside. My clients were likely among them, and she asked me to describe them. I couldn't describe the father at all, not his height, build, hair colour, hair length, nothing. The mom... I remembered "she's tiny." Thankfully, I remembered the five-year-old had a fauxhawk.

Another time, I picked a kid up from an in-home daycare and took her to her mom's place after briefly chatting with the daycare provider. The mom asked me about the new daycare and wanted to know, for whatever reason, if the daycare provider was Caucasian. I couldn't do better than "I don't know...I think so."

APSJ
01-24-12, 07:42 PM
I took the the famous faces test and got 80%, which is interesting as I think it possibly illustrates that similar seeming issues can be fairly distinct.

I think the results make sense given that my primary deficit is short term visual memory, so being presented with an image of someone I've seen hundreds of times, for prolonged periods, and no time constraints, I'm not significantly below average in my ability to identify them.

My issues arise when I have *not* seen someone that often, as is the case with co-workers and classmates, who despite being around alot, I don't spend a lot of time looking at, and/or the time it takes to identify someone.

Thus, in encountering someone on the street, if I *do* know them (or rather their face) well, it will still take a few seconds, at least, to identify them. If I don't know their face well, then depending on the level of familiarity, I may need to basically stare at them for ten or fifteen seconds to figure out if I know them, and even then not be certain, or may just not be able to get more than a feeling that they look familiar.

trishcan
01-25-12, 02:43 AM
There are degrees of this. . . I think I'm actually fairly good at remembering faces, if I'm actually paying attention, and the information gets in. . . unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Here's a research group that looks at these particular impairments, they have tests:

http://www.faceblind.org/facetests/

Holy crap. My results:
Out of 30 faces, you correctly identified 3.
You were familiar with 25 of the people in this test.

If we exclude the ones you were unfamiliar with, you got 12% correct.
I recognized Madonna, Oprah, and Jim Carrey. That's it.

blgw99
01-25-12, 01:32 PM
Out of 30 faces, you correctly identified 3.
You were familiar with 24 of the people in this test.

If we exclude the ones you were unfamiliar with, you got 13% correct.

I also got 3, Cher, Aniston and Robin Williams.

Strange, I usually score just a bit lower than average on the "was this face shown before"-tests. Maybe it is just short-term photographic memory - i remember the picture itself, not the actual face.

The absence of no surrounding visual cues is probably what makes it especially hard.

Rampage1967
02-15-12, 02:37 AM
I got one out of 20 i recognized right, though 2 i didn't at first were who i almost said they were (Elvis Presley & Sylvester Stallone).

I have always had major facial recognition issues though.

PixiePlumber
02-15-12, 06:49 AM
I know everyone's said this already but I also have serious problems with faces. Without sounding racist (because it isn't but some people could take it that way) I have less trouble with caucasian people than black/asian people. I don't know whether the eye colour/hair colour helps me or not, but I mistook one indian housemate for another the other week when I briefly looked at him, just because he wasn't wearing his glasses.

sabotender
07-15-14, 12:51 AM
me, I had this problem. and people around me caught on eventually. imagine i bumped into people u supposedly know but somehow wasnt able to recognize them they asked me "you know who I am?" Or "can you recognize me?" Its quite embarrassing to get caught in it but it happens, and back in school i remember people by name tags and my classmates tricked me by changing their name tags and become amused when i couldn't tell the difference. =_=. I can eventually remember people but it takes a lot of effort and the moment i stop seeing them for an extended period of time, I forgot how they looked like.

Lunacie
07-15-14, 10:42 AM
me, I had this problem. and people around me caught on eventually. imagine i bumped into people u supposedly know but somehow wasnt able to recognize them they asked me "you know who I am?" Or "can you recognize me?" Its quite embarrassing to get caught in it but it happens, and back in school i remember people by name tags and my classmates tricked me by changing their name tags and become amused when i couldn't tell the difference. =_=. I can eventually remember people but it takes a lot of effort and the moment i stop seeing them for an extended period of time, I forgot how they looked like.

I didn't know what the problem was when I was in school, but I saw those people so often -
and it was a small school and a small town - that I usually recognized them.

My 10 year class reunion was crazy though. All the guys had grown beards and started
loosing hair on their heads. I couldn't recognize any of them.

It doesn't take anywhere near 10 years for me to loose recognition of someone,
especially if I see them in a different venue than I used to know them.

Drogheda
07-15-14, 04:49 PM
can't say that I do. I do have the typical "it takes me about 10 times to remember a name" thing we got going.

I have entered that part of life though when OLD relations that I would of remembered 5 years ago sort of slip away. "did I go to highschool with that guy, he seems familiar, what did we do together 20 years ago?" that sort of thing.

mctavish23
07-15-14, 10:07 PM
I do and I have it (even before my stroke).

Can't tell you how many subsequent apologies I've had to make.

Extremely embarrassing.

tc

Robert

Lunacie
07-15-14, 11:01 PM
Robert, the best thing about knowing what this is, is that I can tell people when I first meet them
that I have a disorder that makes it difficult for me to recognize people when I see them again.

Now I don't feel that I have to apologize because I don't recognize someone from parent group
when I see him or her in the grocery store.

Beachnt
08-19-17, 07:50 PM
Hi all, I am just wondering if anyones prosopagnosia has improved with ADHD medication?

Little Missy
08-19-17, 09:00 PM
Not me.

Fortune
08-19-17, 09:51 PM
Not in the least.

Lunacie
08-19-17, 11:33 PM
Hi all, I am just wondering if anyones prosopagnosia has improved with ADHD medication?

I don't think they're related. Do you know of a link between them?

Beachnt
08-20-17, 04:18 AM
I don't think they're related. Do you know of a link between them?

No I dont, I just assumed there was. From a quick google search it doesnt look like there has been much research on the subject.

Lunacie
08-20-17, 05:56 PM
No I dont, I just assumed there was. From a quick google search it doesnt look like there has been much research on the subject.

I just did a quick browse of some information on prosopagnosia, and it seems
that many cases are caused by brain trauma. The cases that are congenital
seem to have a link to autism. I only suspected that I have autism myself when
I first started this thread, now I am sure that I am on the spectrum.