Anonymous said: Hii, so I know this guy since almost six years and I've liked him since. But all this time, when he's not around, I can't picture his face in my head. I can picture anyones face who I just met yesterday or someone I haven't met in years but this person whom I see every once in a while won't show up in my head. Is this something related to prosopagnosia?
I’m not certain if this would have anything to do with prosopagnosia because of its selectivity. Prosopagnosia is a disorder of the fusiform gyrus, which controls facial recognition, so it tends to be all or nothing. When there is variation in recognition, it usually refers to people having varying skill at facial recognition rather than being able to remember one person but not another.
The way it sounds with there being some kind of selective nature in not being able to recall one particular face, you may be encountering something psycho-somatic or possibly a problem with memory retrieval.
Anyone else want to add in?
self-esteem-deprivation-clinic said: Hi friend (I don't yet know your name). I'm Katrina and I've been on tumblr for about 2 years. Anyway I just searched for prosopagnosia and found your blog and omg I'm sure you understand how elated I am to know there's someone else with face blindness. I'll be submitting stories occasionally if that's ok. Just wanted to introduce myself. Take care, xoxo -k
Aw, I’m glad that you found the blog! There are quite a few of us out there, and though we aren’t the biggest group on Tumblr, it’s still fun that people will occassionally share stories. Feel free to submit stories any time. :)
I have a good story that happened to me last weekend. I was at a party and there was a huge 3x3 ft picture above the tv of a guy with his hair in a bun on his head and a colorful sweater or something. The whole night I was looking at it thinking “wow that person looks really familiar” but I didn’t want to ask someone because I figured it had to be someone really obvious if I was getting such a strong feeling that I should know him. The next day I was asking my boyfriend about this guy I met at the party and how well the host knew him and my boyfriend replied “they’re best friends, didn’t you see the huge picture of him above the tv”. The guy in the picture had been sitting no more than 5ft away from the picture for a significant portion of the night and I was sitting across from him and never made the connection! In my defense he has short hair now though.
lennat said: I don't picture characters' faces at all. I picture their movements, their size, their colors of skin and clothes, and especially their hair. If there are too many characters in a book (i.e. ASOIF), I can easily lose track of them, though I don't know if that is because of my prosopagnosia or not.
I think that may be the case for most people reading ASOIF, actually (or at least it certainly was in my case). But yeah, I often don’t even picture a face whilst reading because it would just take too much effort to design a face in my head and then immediately not know what that face looks like.
dimestore-duchess said: Most of the time, my prosopagnosia is an inconvenience at worst and a great icebreaker at best. But... I just had a man come to my door and ask if I wanted to take a walk. It took me a few minutes of talking to this guy before I realized that I didn't already know him, he was just some dude. It felt so, so vulnerable. Friend, or creeper? By the time I've determined this, I've already engaged with this person. This is the scariest/worst part of faceblindness for me.
Ah man, that’s actually pretty terrifying. I’ve never quite had something like this happen to me, though I have followed the wrong families out of stores. I even followed this woman on a cruise ship up three flights of stairs before I realised that she wasn’t my mother.
dimestore-duchess said: Hi there! Still new to Tumblr but hoping I'm using the right format to comment to you. I have moderate prosopagnosia and definitely appreciate the community I've found here. So I have a question to pose to anybody else who'd like to share their experience: how do you visualizes characters in books? In my head, whole groups of characters might dimly resemble whoever I might know IRL whose face I can "grasp" best. And boy, do I get 'em mixed up.
Hi and welcome to Tumblr!
I know what you mean about having trouble with book characters and visualisations for them. I try not to imagine characters as someone I know because I’m afraid I’ll apply characteristics from that person onto the character. Instead, I have to draw out how I imagine them or else fall into this trap of reusing the same face in my head for every character. This means that pretty much every woman and every man look identical save for having different hair or skin tones or what have you. It’s very difficult for me to attach a visualisation to the name while reading and is also a challenge when writing. I write fiction ad tend to have very diverse characters when it comes to ethnicity, race, hair, etc., but I have to do a lot of research in describing their face. I google image all kinds of facial features and break them down into shapes so that I can describe them to the reader. Then I immediately forget that the character looked like that because their face is really just a blob in my head anyway. Either way, it’s difficult.
What does everyone else do for book characters? Send a message here.
I can recognise a famous model whose picture is often posted on tumblr because of her distinctive eyebrow shape, and it makes me feel super human. Or, like, normal human.
point-d said: For me the hardest thing to deal with is movies. Forget recognizing actors- I have trouble keeping the characters separate (I though Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt were the same person during the Oscars). My family loves to tease me about this, but it's extremely embarrassing to have to keep asking "Is he the guy from the last scene, or is he the bad guy?", only to find out that they're one and the same. Any tips?
Oh man, I feel ya. Films are so difficult because they give you less cues for telling differences amongst characters. I’ve tried memorising hair and eyebrow shape in the past, but that doesn’t work the best. I’m still getting people confused or thinking that two characters are the same person the entire film. The best recommendation is to watch things around people who are understanding and will help you. My friends will laugh at times when I ask who is who, but for the most part, they quickly tell me the information that I need without any question. They’ve come to understand that I honestly need the help, so it’s no longer a big deal.
Anonymous said: First off, I'm glad that this blog exist and that you feel open to educating the public on a matter that is still not full understood. I do not have prosopagnosia but I am very curious about. I understand that individuals tend to difficulty recognizing faces but not objects. In your personal experience, have you ever noticed any difficult recognizing multiple faces if it were to be drawn in-front of you so that you can identify each component of a face as they emerged to make a whole face?
If the faces were side by side, I would still be able to detect differences, regardless of whether they were drawn in front of me. But just seeing something created in front of me doesn’t seem like the most helpful. I’d probably go right back to my usual identification techniques of breaking the face down into shapes to see if anything was recognisable. Chances are, you could draw famous portraits or people I know, and I’d still not be able to identify them.
bana-ceo said: Thanks for answering my question! I have another one, (you don't have to answer if it's too much), but I found it interesting that you said when you look at two faces side by side, they look identical, and you have to look for the tiniest of details to tell them apart. How about traits like nose shape, eye shape, distance between lips and nose, etc. I'm going to guess here, is it that you can see those distances/shapes, but seeing it all together on a face is difficult?
Pretty much. Faces to me are not whole pictures; they’re a series of little bits and pieces. I can break a face down into its components and look at shapes, but putting all of that information together in memory would mean that I’d have to memorise tons of little shapes on every face that I encounter, and I honestly don’t think that our brains are capable of using that much information at one time. We just don’t have the working memory capable of holding all those details to be used simultaneously. For most people who can see the face as one piece or the bigger picture, this isn’t a concern. But for people memorising details of a face, I think that’s one of the issues we run into.
Also, certain aspects of the face are easier to look at than others. Nose shape, eye shape, etc. are actually pretty difficult to me. I’m more likely to look at hair or freckles or skin tone. The only shapes that are a bit easier for me are eyebrow shape and jaw-line because they are often very simple to memorise and yet overarching when it comes to identifying someone.
bana-ceo said: Hi! I'm just a curious person that doesn't have prosopagnosia, but really interested. I've read a whole bunch of articles and gone through this blog, but I'm still having a really difficult time grasping what exactly it means that you cannot recognize faces (that sounds really stupid omg), but when you say you can't recognize faces, does it mean that as soon as you turn away from a face you can't recall it, or when you look at a face it's all blurry and distorted?
I can answer this from my perspective of not being able to recall a face after I’ve seen it as well as when I look at people side by side, they tend to look identical. It’s as though all faces are so much the same that you have to pick the tiniest of details to tell the difference (such as if two people have different mole placements on their face or different hair lines). I can look at someone all day and still not be able to picture their face later on. (I used to play a game on campus where I’d look at someone, look away whilst trying to maintain the image of their face in my head, then look back at them to see if my image matched. It never did. Or if it did match, I couldn’t figure it out with certainty. It was a rather masochistic game.) I’ve never personally seen any faces as blurry and distorted—just all the same, really.
Anyone else want to weigh in?
Let’s Talk About Face-Blindness (Prosopagnosia)
There are two types of face-blindness. Apperceptive Prosopagnosia gets a lot of attention, because it’s the most drastic.This type of face-blindness doesn’t recognizes faces as a pattern, let alone individual differences. You know how when you look at an electrical outlet, how it looks like a face? That’s an automatic response in your brain, which is looking for faces. People with Apperceptive Prosopagnosia don’t experience this, because to their brain, a face has no use.
Associative Prosopagnosia recognizes that a face is a face and doesn’t go any further. While Apperceptive is a failure to recognize a pattern, Associative recognizes the pattern but fails to store it on an individual level. This gives an Associative Prosopagnosiacs the ability to compare faces…if the people are side by side, or they are looking at two photos at the same time. Once they stop looking at a face, they forget it.
Prosopagnosia can be developmental or acquired. That means that it can be something that develops in the brain from a very young age, or it can be the result of another condition or injury to the brain. Estimates put Prosopagnosiacs at 1-2.5% of the population, though it’s hard to estimate because, unlike other visual agnosiacs, they’re pretty good at compensating. Generally, there’s two ways of doing so: avoidance or over-friendliness. The avoidant take might be the person who puts their hood up and their headphones on and looks at the floor the entire time they travel to and from. It gives them plausible deniablity. While the over-friendly Prosopagnosiac will smile, make eye contact, and greet everyone with equal friendliness, until they can get enough extra information to place that person.
Prosopagnosiacs are also ‘super-noticers’. They have to rely on other, less reliable information, like facial hair, eye color, hair cuts, gait, clothing, etc.
For me, I’m a developmental Associative Prosopagnosiac. That means I actually cannot remember your face. I have a variety of tricks I use instead, which include the above listed traits, and context. However, that information is constantly checked and rechecked because I can’t be sure it’s right. So if my partner shaves off his goatee or wears a hat… I have a small panic attack that there’s an intruder in the house until he talks to me. It also means that I have trouble reading your facial expression unless it’s exaggerated. This feeds into social anxiety. And I hate crowds, in part because it’s hard for me to be sure that the guy coming towards me is someone I like, and not my dangerous ex. A lot of things get remembered as semantic memory, instead of episodic.
Her name is Lily. She has big green eyes. Freckles. Red hair. It’s unusually red for a natural hair color. She’s about 5 ft 9 (comes up to my eyes). Slender. Probably a size 10. Likes green. Wears jeans frequently (stated). Long neck, small shoulders. Long legs. Bites her thumb nail when she’s listening. If I’m describing her, she’s the tall, hot, leggy red head in Accounting. I will remember that I find her attractive.
I do remember when I find someone attractive, but my perception on that is actually based on how much I like them. Since I can’t remember your face, every time I see you is like the first time. So if you’re attractive to me personality wise, I will actually see you as increasingly attractive physically the more I see you. The opposite is also true.
Question for my fellow Prosos :D
I haven’t noticed this in myself, though maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but do you find your facial recognition decreasing as you become more tired?
I haven’t noticed it, either. I’m pretty consistent during time of day. The only times when I’m more likely to mess up are during times of stress or absent-mindedness.
Any other prosopagnosics want to weigh in?
My face blindness is getting worse lately. You can probably tell if you saw that post where I thought Anderson from Sherlock was a homeless man.
I feel like it might be getting worse because I’m getting overconfident like “I’m 24 and I’ve been working hard on recognizing people and I’m getting results, so I’ve got this shit down” but I’m not sure if it works like that.
It also pisses me off that nobody really takes faceblindness seriously. Maybe if my parents had actually been concerned when I couldn’t recognize my dad, I’d recognize people better now.
I think that no matter how old you are and how aware you are of being prosopagnosic, you are still going to run into complications. Films and television are particularly difficult as well because you receive less clues as to who the person is. When recognising someone, it’s common to use their gate, small details about hair and style, voice, etc. A character on the television does now have as much to offer for you to memorise, thus increasing your chances of error.
If your family and friends don’t take you seriously about face blindness, you can send them to several online resources that help explain what prosopagnosia is. This blog is mostly full of personal anecdotes from people online who are analysing aspects of the disorder, but websites such as faceblind.org and this Youtube video can be helpful.