“Face Blindness” Follow-Up

Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, is a neurological disorder where people cannot recognize faces.  There are varying degrees to this disorder, but the effects can be devastating for all sufferers.   In a few extreme cases face blind people can’t even recognize their own face.

In a past blog, we reported that science has not yet been able to concretely say what areas of the brain are exclusively dedicated to face processing. But they do know that there are two sides to this spectrum.  There are the sufferers of “face blindness” as mentioned above and there are a very few of us who find it difficult to NOT recognize a face even if they only encountered it briefly years ago.  The latter are dubbed “super recognizers”.

NBC News reports on the progress that science is making in understanding the brain and where face recognition and face blindness originate.  Researchers Parvizi and Kalant Grill-Spector, from Stanford, wrote an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience that they have found critical areas of the brain that are responsible for face recognition, which they call “mFus- and pFus-faces”.

Scientists have known for a while that people, and at least some primates, have an area of the brain that’s responsible for processing faces specifically.  We’ve evolved it, Grill-Spector explained in an interview.  

Parvizi and Grill-Spector concluded that if the fusiform gyrus, located in the temporal lobe, is injured, people can lose the ability to recognize faces, even of people they’ve known for a long time.  People can also be born with prosopagnosia.

Grill-Spector goes on to state, “because we’re social beings. We need to know who our friends and enemies are, who’s a family member, who we can trust.

To read the entire article click here.

  Have you had experience with this disorder?  

Share your thoughts with the Humintell Community !


2 responses to ““Face Blindness” Follow-Up”

  1. Keith D. says:

    I seem to have a mild form of this disorder. When I was in high school was the first time I had a concrete experience of it.

    I had a best friend in high school who I spent a lot of time with outside of school (and all my time with in school), and he had long hair the whole time I knew him. Then one day he got his hair cut.

    The next day, I had just arrived at school and was walking down the hallway toward class, when I heard someone call my name behind me. I turned around to see who was trying to get my attention but didn’t see anyone I knew. I decided I must’ve misheard or that the person was trying to get some other Keith’s attention whom I didn’t know. I turned back toward class, and heard my name called again, more urgently this time. I turned around again and scanned the area more carefully, but still didn’t see anyone I knew. I figured someone must be trying to play a practical joke on me, so I was ready to give up and head back to class again, but while I was still looking behind me, my best friend called my name for a third time, and added, “What? Don’t you recognize me?”

    Seeing his face while hearing his voice made the connection, and then I realized that he’d gotten his hair cut.

    Had he not said anything, it’s entirely possible that I’d have gone through the whole class without knowing my best friend was sitting right there in the room. I can say this with confidence too, because for a while I moved in with my best friend at his parents’ house. I lived there for a couple of years with his sister and his mom and dad.

    One day, a distant relative in the family passed away out of state, and his parents were getting ready to make the trip for their funeral. I’d heard about the funeral and the trip, and when I got home there was someone new in the house who I’d never met before but who appeared to be related to the family.

    I figured it was a relative who’d dropped by and was going to travel with my friend’s parents to the funeral. But after several hours of hanging out in the living room, I thought it was odd that I hadn’t been introduced yet, so when this new person went into another room, I asked who it was and when they were planning to introduce me to him.

    That’s when I learned that this “new” person was my best friend’s dad, whom I’d known quite well for several years, and had been living with for a few years. He’d decided to shave his beard for the first time since I’d met him, and that was enough of a change that even within the context of his home, I didn’t know who he was– only that he appeared to be related to the family.

    In another incident just earlier this year, the owner of my company– a man whom I’ve known for over 20 years– came in to visit the store I work in. As the owner, he normally comes in either wearing a shirt or jacket or something bearing the company logo, and/or he enters the building through the back door. This time, he came in through the front door where customers enter, and approached the front counter. I was closest, so I went up to the counter thinking that he looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t tell for sure whether he was familiar or just looked like someone else, or was a regular customer whom I hadn’t seen often enough myself. I asked him if he’d already been helped or not. The instant he opened his mouth and spoke, I realized my mistake– his voice made it clear instantly to me who he was, but it didn’t change his befuddlement over me not recognizing who he was. In cases like that one, it’s downright embarrassing, and *potentially* even damaging to one’s career.

    I’ve also had several incidents while watching TV or movies, where I get two different actors confused with one another. Samuel L. Jackson and Lawrence Fishburne are two of those actors– partly, I think, because they’d both starred in similar films at around the same time. They’d both been in gang member movies, and both been in chess movies, and in each of those cases, their respective movies had come out within just a couple of years of each other. If you have a hard time telling faces apart, and two somewhat similar faces appear in similar contexts at similar times, it’s easy to lose track of which one is which. I think that may also explain why I have a difficult time following along in the plot lines of certain movies– the physical characteristics of the characters are not differentiated enough, and I lose track of who I’m watching so I can’t tell which parts of the plot are tied to a particular character. In most movies, maybe inadvertently or maybe by design, they do a pretty good job in wardrobe and cinematography and scoring to set different characters apart enough that I don’t get them confused so easily.

    That’s been some of my experience with face blindness, although as I said, in my case it’s fairly mild.

  2. Keith,
    Thank you so much for sharing that information. That adds additional knowledge that the article did not touch on. We appreciate the edification as I did not know there were other forms such as yours and appreciate you sharing your personal experiences !!! This is a really interesting and enlightening story.

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