Prosopagnosia – Face-Blind
I used to think that I was stupid because I was obviously not like other people. It never occurred to me that I had prosopagnosia because until two years’ ago I had never heard of this condition.
This is the quiz from the London Faceblind group page via http://www.faceblind.org.uk/
- Q1: Do you recognise people by looking out for certain items of clothing, hairstyles, or jewellery?
Q2: Do you generally avoid using names when talking to people?
Q3: Do people sometimes know you even though you don’t know them?
Q4: Do you recognise people by listening to their voice or watching how they move?
Q5: Do you have problems following characters when watching films?
Q6: When eating out do you struggle to remember who your waiter or waitress is?
Q7: Have you had problems identifying family and close friends when you have met them out of context or unexpectedly?
Q8: Have you ever not recognised yourself on CCTV or in a photograph?
Q9: Do you have problems trying to get a picture of someone’s face in your mind?
Q10: Do you worry about arranging to meet people in public places and then not recognising them?
Amazingly I answered yes to all of them. Some aspects are just annoying like having to ask my husband to tell me which of two characters in a tv show is the husband and which is the bad guy. (Missing, a tremendously gripping serial, is an example. To me the police man with the son looked too much like the voyeur who looked too much like the undercover drug addict cop! However, I had no trouble in discerning whether we were watching a flash-back or present day because the lead actress helpfully changed the colour of her hair from blonde six years previously to brown in the present.)
Like all sufferers of prosopagnosia (it’s a lovely word, isn’t it, although it took me several attempts to pronounce it) I learnt ways of coping even before I knew the condition existed. I have learned to smile in the right situation and to listen carefully for clues as to who might be talking to me. Once I do have their name then I will remember all sorts of odd facts about them – I am a words person not a visualise one.
It also explains why I don’t much like cartoons or the ballet and why radio is so important to me.
Meeting people in public places is a nightmare for me; especially my family, my best friend or my agent. People have this habit of wearing different coats, growing beards (thanks Terry – although it is such a dramatic beard that I did recognise you last month) and ditching the spectacles for contact lenses. I hate my husband’s hat but I love him for wearing it when I have arranged to meet him at The British Museum.
I’m sorry but other than knowing that he is a young, pleasant looking chap I cannot describe my new agent to you. I would certainly walk past him in the street although I might recognise him if I saw him in a theatre bar because that would be a logical place for him to be.
Tonight I am going to a variety-type show in a bar/club. I am really looking forward to seeing some comedy sketches but am dreading the social/network aspect. I will smile though and hope for the best. My husband is accompanying me. Hopefully he will recognise the guy who invited us.
Most of my friends know that I am stupid at recognising people but if you are one of them who doesn’t know about prosopagnosia then please note that
a) if I don’t speak to you then come up to me and say something useful like, “Hi Carrie, haven’t seen you since we did that play together at The Etcetera.” Then I will be able to narrow it down to you being either Josh or Tom because there were only two young men in that show.
b) I am not stupid. Well, yes I am stupid about somethings, but I am basically a very social person and if I only knew who you were would be delighted to see you.
By the way, there are two causes of prosopagnsoia: trauma linked to head injury and just being born with that sort of brain like being left-handed as I am. I was forced to write right-handed as a child which I don’t think did my mental well-being any good.
Now that I know I am not alone in no recognising faces, I do at least feel much happier.
Finally, my favourite story is about the woman who saw herself sitting on a bus on the cctv camera. She was somewhat take aback when she saw “herself” get up, press the stop button and exit.