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I have Prosopagnosia

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It's true. I'm pretty sure that I have Prosopagnosia and I've had it a lot longer than 4 hours. I've had it my whole life in fact. I'm not running to the doctor though.

Prosopagnosia is often referred to as face-blindness. My ability to recognize faces is simply not like most other people's. It's terrible. It's not like I mistake my friends for my wife or anything like that. It's just that given two similar faces, I can't tell them apart. For example, when watching a movie, I'll confuse Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon or I won't recognize Scarlett Johansson when she is a brunette. I may recognize that Morena Baccarin looks familiar in an episode of Numbers, but not place her as the popular character Inara in Firefly/Serenity, a series I've seen twice and the a movie I've seen probably around 40 times (yes, I really enjoy it that much). The problem for me? Baccarin cut her hair very, very short after the Firefly/Serenity.

The problem that I have with movies is that there aren't contextual clues to help me. Since I only seem to have a mild form and real life seems to contain plenty of contextual clues it rarely becomes an issue. On rare occasions though, a person will be in a place where I didn't expect them and the trigger might not go off that I know them. It's times like these that I probably come off as a royal snob.

My point to all this? I want to raise awareness of it in general. Most people don't know it exists. However for a better read check out Nate St. Pierre's excellent

Last updated on June 11, 2012.

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15 Responses to “I have Prosopagnosia”

  1. Are you serious? Wow. I heard about this but don’t know anyone who has this. Sounds exotic. There is NO WAY I would mix up Matt Damon and Leo Di Caprio. Maybe you are just mixing up names — if so, then that would just be a memory problem. I would love to know who else confuses you. I hope you don’t mix me and Cap up. After all, we sorta look alike??! lol

    • Lazy Man says:

      I actually think that Leo and Matt are the same person much like Superman and Clark Kent. Speaking of Superman and Clark Kent, I think there should be some conspiracy theory about someone adding something to the water of Metropolis causing everyone to have Prosopagnosia. Back to Leo and Matt, I know Matt was in Good Will Hunting and Leo was in Titanic. I don’t really mix up their careers, but they are both baby-faced blond guys in my mind. I think if you went to one with a part and he was busy, you’d just go to the other, right?

      You and Cap look nothing alike.

  2. Rob says:

    I didn’t know there was a name for that sort of thing. I am absolutely awful at telling people apart… I can relate one hundred percent. Famous people, acquaintances, doesn’t matter… if there are any feature similarities, I’m toast.

  3. Ben says:

    I can never remember anyone’s name, even just a few minutes after I’m introduced I forget their name. Is there a name for that condition : )

  4. Cathie says:

    I can totally see the Leo/Matt mix-up. And I do believe my husband suffers from this problem as well. He doesn’t know who anyone is except for Selma Hayak. Who can blame him, really?

  5. I hadn’t heard of this before.

    I have problems related to the mental rotation of images. I’m not sure of name for it, but the inability to mentally rotate images causes me to have a horrible sense of direction. If it’s dawn or dusk, I can work things out by the sun, but drop me in a field at noon, and I’ll have no idea which way is north.

    I also have an inability to remember individual features. Quiz me on whether my co-works have blonde or brunette hair and I’ll probably struggle to get 50% right. I have no problems actually recognizing faces most of the time (“hey, that’s Bob!”)and I can tell if people made changes (new hair color, new glasses, got ride of glasses). Essentially, I can retrieve the facial image for comparison purposes (does A=B?) but I can’t iterrogate it for specific attributes. This drives my wife nuts (“What do you mean you don’t know if Amy is the blonde one?”) but generallt isn’t that big of a deal. I tend to think of people in abstract ways anyway (their occupation, interests, quirky sayings, etc) so it’s not a huge problem.

    More blah blah blah about this @ http://goo.gl/jeOn3

    If you’ve gotten this far in life with prosopagnosia, I think you’re in good shape and should be able to find a way to deal with it :)

    • Lazy Man says:

      Cathie, next you are going to tell me that Selma Hayak and Penelope Cruz are different people ;-). You silly goose.

      Kosmo, I would hope that if I quiz you whether your co-worker has blonde or brunette hair you wouldn’t struggle that much to get 50% right? It’s seriously bad when you can’t beat random chance. :-) (For readers who don’t know, I’m friends with Kosmo, so I can take good-natured jibes like this.)

      I am directionally challenged like you. I have to drive to a place at least 5 or 6 times in a span of a week or two before I know my way there. And if I don’t go back in a couple of months, I can’t get back. However, I’m pretty good with rotating images, especially in those IQ tests. I don’t know what to make of that.

  6. Andy Hough says:

    It is Salma Hayek not Selma and she doesn’t look anything like Penelope Cruz although they are both hot Latinas. The movie Banditas would have been very confusing to you. I guess Departed was confusing too.

    Serenity is a good movie but it was a disappointment to me after watching the Firefly series. Firefly is one of my favorite shows ever.

    • Lazy Man says:

      The Departed was very confusing for me. It’s one of the reasons why I am one of the few people who think it is quite horrible.

      What did you find disappointing about Serenity? I thought it did a great job of packing what would have been a whole second season into a couple of hours. I also thought it was quite quotable.

  7. “Kosmo, I would hope that if I quiz you whether your co-worker has blonde or brunette hair you wouldn’t struggle that much to get 50% right? It’s seriously bad when you can’t beat random chance.”

    I’m betting I wouldn’t be much over 60%. If I remember, it’s because they’ve someone drawn attention to it verbally (“Oh, I’m so blonde”). Pretty bad.

  8. Lazy Man,

    I also have Prosopagnosia and it’s no joke. It’s so embarrasing to not recognize people when they come up to greet you. It often causes me to panic, which just makes everything worse. Before I learned what it was last year, I thought I was losing my mind.

    For those who don’t know about Prosopagnosia, it’s a very real condition and around a million people suffer from it. From my experience, it’s not fun at all. Sometimes, I can’t even recogmize people I’ve known for years, if they change their hairstyle or have aged. Often, I recognize their voice before I can recognize their face. If you don’t have Prosopagnosia, be thankful.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Wow, I am very thankful that my condition is so mild. It was at the point that I didn’t think of it as a real condition until I read more about it. You are right, it is seriously not fun at all especially because the expectation is that you recognizes faces like most everyone else.

  9. rainbow heart says:

    I have struggled with face recognition all of my life. I am trying to re-learn how to drive but I have a feeling that I might need a file of directions to places that I go for a while. I have little sense of direction too. I tried an on-line face test and flunked (Yale research site) and a directions one too (flunked it too.)

    My most memorable face problem was when a co-worker shaved his hair off. I heard a familiar voice (that I new the name of) coming from a stranger’s face. GRRR.

  10. Peter Davey says:

    On one ship where I served, the Sonar chief was a bald man named Sam. But when we were in port another guy took over, who was a young chap with sandy hair with a bit of a wave at the front – a sort of quiff. To make matters confusing, he was also called Sam.

    I’d been onboard three or four months before I discovered that Sam only wore his hairpiece when we were in port.

    When I left the services I spent some time in industry. At my place, the Purchasing Manager and the Purchasing Director were both tall men with moustaches. I could distinguish them when they were together but again it was about three months before I could positively identify either of them in isolation. Once I had the identification nailed, they seemed to me to be completely different. I suppose that’s what most people see from the word go.

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