March 30, 2009

Prosopagnosia ()

by fluffy at 2:14 PM
For a long time I've been aware that I have trouble recognizing faces that I'm not familiar with. Usually I'm at least okay at faking it (like, if I don't recognize someone right away I pretend to know them until their identity comes to me), but today after lunch, a person who I met in Japan a year ago and had lunch with just once came to me and asked if I remembered who he was — and got a bit offended that I didn't immediately recognize him until he prompted me a bit (and after that he seemed to think that because I didn't recognize his face I wouldn't remember the lunch, which I did quite well).

Anyway, this led me to find an online test (made by actual real prosopagnosia researchers so it's not like a Myspace WHAT COLOR IS YOUR INNER FURRY thing or whatever), which I scored 67% on (65% is their threshold for "you are almost certainly faceblind"), and there's probably enough of a margin of error that I am comfortable saying that this shows I'm probably faceblind. Hooray.

It's not that I have profound prosopagnosia. I am able to recognize people who I spend a lot of time with. My friends and coworkers, for example. Of course there it helps that I have context with which to learn who's who very quickly. My first day at my job, I had to "fake it" with ucblockhead for a while — even though I'd met him before getting this job and had known him online for years. Although, there was the time the guy who sits next to me got a haircut and trimmed his beard... it took me a few moments to realize that I knew him and he wasn't just some crazy guy who managed to get into the office somehow.

This is probably a big part of why I draw my comics the way I do. My journal comics portray people with various features which I find easy to keep straight in my head (although I don't actually come up with those features until I need to draw someone). My fiction comics generally have characters which look as completely different as possible, using hair/skin colors, horns, tails, and so on to keep them straight. The color aspects in particular are important enough to me that I have a color palette file which I use to keep the colors consistent.

I'm sure that all of my various mental weirdnesses are related. The sort-of-but-not-really-hyperlexia is almost certainly related, and I wonder if the asexuality and general dysphoria/dysmorphia are too. (Of course, that has often manifested itself as me not really recognizing myself in the mirror or photographs, so, yeah, probably. Also, this person's experience seems frighteningly familiar.)

I don't think there's really any "treatment" or any reasonable thing to do except to practice as much as I can, and try to figure out ways of making people know that if I don't recognize them it's not because I'm not interested in them — I just need a reminder of who they are (via an event or a common friend or whatever), because that's how my brain is wired.

James "Kibo" Parry's rant about it also seems completely familiar to me, in terms of how I learn peoples' faces and how it differs from how most people seem to.


#11891 Neillparatzo 03/30/2009 11:52 pm
    92%. Wow. Normally I don't pay attention to people and bullshit it by context when I think I'm supposed to know them, so that's surprising.
    #11892 fluffy 03/31/2009 08:00 am
      There's a pretty big difference between "not paying attention" and "being unable to innately recognize people after a single glance." I try really hard to remember new people and still need to see (and interact with) them a few times before I can recognize them quickly.

      Even then I still have trouble when they change their hair or stop wearing hats or when I see them from an odd angle or whatever. When I'm meeting someone in a crowded place it usually comes down to them finding me. I can't just glance at the crowd - I have to specifically inspect everyone who comes by, which tends to make all the people I don't know uncomfortable.
      #11893 Gedvondur 04/01/2009 06:34 am Hmmm
        I scored a 74%. Too bad there isn't a test that is about remembering both names and faces. I never remember anybody's name.

        #11910 HeuristicsInc 04/10/2009 01:09 pm
          Yeah, names are my problem also, not faces... I did pretty well on the faces thing as long as you can count "the guy that's in the cop movies" - I totally recognized him but I couldn't even remember the name of one of his movies. Heh.
          I'm bad enough with names that on occasion somebody has introduced themselves and I've forgotten the name already during the conversation. Ouch!
          #14308 Ostrich 10/18/2011 04:36 pm
            I got 68%. Recognizing people is something I've always had trouble with.