This should be a fairly short, straight-forward post. I want to discuss Face Blindness & my experiences.
But first, a question — does anybody actually recognize other people by their faces alone? Don’t we all use other cues to tell each other apart? I can’t imagine using a person’s face to identify them and I feel like it’s that way for everybody to some extent. But I’m not sure what I base that on.
Okay, so let’s start at the very beginning. Childhood. I only knew my mom by the coat she wore. When my dad and I were waiting in the grocery store parking lot, I would say, “Look, Mom’s back!” for any lady in a long, purple coat. Everyone thought it was cute, so no big deal. If we were waiting to pick up my brother from school or some place, it was the same thing — Anyone with a coat like his had me convinced it was him. But still, cute and no big deal.
When I got scared was in about third or fourth grade. I made a friend with an older girl at recess (or rather, she made a friend in me). Only, I couldn’t recognize her. She had to approach me and say hi and start talking before I’d know it was her. I never once located her. It was awkward. I would go to the same location and just have to wait and wait and hope she found me.
I learned that I couldn’t recognize my classmates if they changed their hairstyles or their makeup.
By middle school, I had learned not to EVER, EVER call someone by their name. Because I so often thought it was the wrong person. To date, I don’t use people’s names. I say, “Hi!” But I never say, “Hi, Bob” or whatever. There are rare exceptions but I have to be really damn confident, and even then, I sometimes say the wrong name even when I know who I’m talking to.
I do think I’m better about this today. I think I take in more cues. I really try to study people’s hair and coat and anything else that stands out, like earrings or scarves. I especially use posture to ID people now!! But sometimes I can get a general “sense” from the face. It’s nothing I could go home and draw but I feel like I’ve improved.
I have actually been able to recognize people out of context in the past seven years. I didn’t used to be able to do that at all, and have sadly offended people I cared about (“My mom waved to you in the store last week and you didn’t wave back! She said you’ve become unfriendly.” — that was when I was about 22 yrs old). What I don’t know is if I’d recognize a person out of context if they also wore completely different clothes and hairstyle and makeup. But I feel pretty confident in my ID skills now.
For more reading, here’s a link.