Face Blindness (Topic#034)

Rock face

Rock face

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.


3 thoughts on “Face Blindness (Topic#034)

  1. Prosopagnosia is something you have in common with me, Oliver Sacks (he wrote a book on this) and Brad Pitt. I have had just the same experience as you with being told I have become rude by not acknowledging people. Not realizing how bad it was has gotten me into some sticky situations. Now I’m just more up front about the whole thing – I tell* people I have trouble with faces until I know someone really well. If they say I should learn facial recognition better, I ask them whether they would tell a deaf person to listen up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know this for certain, but I’m thinking there must be a lot of people with this same sort of difficulty. Not to be an idiot or anything, but when it gets right down to it, all humans, and I’m referring to humans of all different races here, really do look a lot alike. We by and large have two eyes, relatively spaced the same ratio apart from a centralized nose, which is roughly the same space ratio above a mouth that extends from approximately the center of each eye. So there is really very little difference. The average human is just really good at picking those differences out. That’s also why it’s taking us so long to come up with really good facial recognition programs for computers.

    Liked by 1 person

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