I watched a 60 minutes expose on a newly discovered condition called face blindness or prosopagnosia. It’s apparently common, occurring mildly in about one in fifty people. These people can describe a face as they’re looking at it, but form no memories from which to recognize a person. Every face looks essentially the same to them. Even a picture of their own child–cut away from familiar background and clothing–is unrecognizable.

They talked about many of the coping mechanisms prosopagnosics have to adopt to recognize friends family and coworkers. Hairdos, sound of voice, style of dress, gait, and mannerisms are all indispensable cues.  Some say they wait for eye contact to know whether someone knows them. Some of them employ a technique of smiling at everyone and being extremely charming to avoid accidentally offending someone by not remembering who they are.

While the region of the brain responsible for facial recognition is still active in prosopagnosics, it is not clear how it malfunctions. Perhaps it bears some other environmental advantage, like how sickle cell anemics can be malaria resistant. That is assuming that it has a genetic determinant. Perhaps there is some crucial stimulus in a developmental stage which is lacking.

Whatever the case, the condition is quite sad, and can result in a variety of introverted and extroverted behaviors. I recommend watching the video if you have more interest in the subject. This was a brief overview of some of its main points. Subscribe to my blog if you enjoyed this post!




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