It seems obvious to us that we easily recognize our friends, family members and neighbors. We spot them easily in crowds of strangers and even recognize them if they changed a hairstyle and a manner of dress.
Unfortunately, not all people have this ability. They have the so-called ‘face blindness’ (prosopagnosia) and it troubles them because inability to recognize faces can greatly complicate life. They lose their friends and offend work colleagues because they have failed to recognize them.
Face blindness often affects people from birth and is usually a problem a person has for most or all of their life.
People with face blindness remember where they met others and remember their names but – their faces are alien to them!
Sometimes they cannot even recognize their own family members, someone they have just met; the truth is they cannot recognize themselves.
Those who suffer from the disease, tell terrible stories that they pick up the wrong child from daycare or simply fail to recognize a husband/wife at home.
“Put my daughter in a crowd, shave her head, and I wouldn’t recognize her unless I knew she was in that crowd,” according to one confession.
No, it is estimated that approximately 2% of the population suffers from a serious prosopagnosia and about 10% suffer from this disorder but it’s less severe.
There are other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes, or looking at any characteristic feature of the face, but these are not as effective as recognizing a face.
The causes of face blindness are not yet fully understood. However, face blindness is thought to be the result of abnormalities, damage, or impairment in the right fusiform gyrus, which is a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate the neural systems that control facial perception and memory.
Though researchers have sought cures, unfortunately, no therapies have demonstrated lasting improvements.
It is said that there are only about 100 documented cases of prosopagnosia in the worldwide medical literature. Yet scientists at the Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Dartmouth College, Harvard University and University College London are questioning whether the condition is actually that uncommon.