Imagine your daughter/son and a few other students getting off the school bus and you (the parent) can’t recognize which child is yours. It’s one thing when you forget a name, it is worse when you can’t recognize the face. This is something that affects more people than you know! The cognitive term for this disorder is developmental prosopagnosia which means the inability to recognize familiar faces, aka face blindness. This term has struck a lot of attention on CBS news because this is a disorder that affects 1 out of 50 people. This disorder similarly resembles those individuals who have trouble remembering faces and names due to brain damage, however, it is not the same. The question then shifts to how/why. 

How do people end up with this disorder? Research provides evidence that its caused by the undeveloped mechanisms in the brain for facial recognition. This affects many people in our world. Even celebrities have come public with “having” the disorder. One in specific that got my attention is Brad Pitt, which makes me speculate why his marriages with his former wives (Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Anniston) didn’t work. Often, people with prosopagnosia have problems in social settings. Imagine how annoying it is to walk by your best friend and them not even speak to you. Those with the impairment depend a lot on other visual clues such as hair color, height or possibly clothes, to help them recognize the person.

Think about those affected by DP and how their work/occupation is affected. Many occupations require good facial recognition such as a police officer, investigator, security guards. Investigators need to use facial recognition for much of the job such as witness recall/testimonials. Many security guards are responsible for matching faces with proper identification, so those with the impairment may not be the best candidate. The best people to be equipped for these jobs would be those who are extremely good at facial recognition (aka super recognizer). This impairment would also affect how  prosopagnosic views television programs because they aren’t able to follow the identity of the characters. One can see just how the impairment can truly affect everyday tasks.

There has been research done on prosopagnosia but there are still many unanswered questions. Some questions include: what genes are involved with the developmental prosopagnosia and which brain areas are impaired due to the disorder. Once these questions can be answered, we will be able to have a broader scope of prosopagnosia and will be more able to develop methods to correct the disorder. I believe this topic is really interesting. The fact that some people aren’t able to fully develop something this vital blows my mind. I also hope that at some point in history, we can better know what we can do to counteract the disorder.

Materials I used were as follows:

3 thoughts on “Oh That’s You!

  1. kathrynarntsen

    I find this blog post really interesting as someone who is bad at recognizing faces. I know I don’t have this disorder, but it is still something I can relate to on a very small scale. While I have heard of face blindness, I never considered how much it truly impacts one’s life and the ways other people in the individuals life are also affected. Struggling in social settings and at work are instances where this disorder can have a major influence. I also never considered the cognitive reasoning behind face blindness and how undeveloped mechanisms in the brain play a role. The fact that there are so many unanswered questions on prosopagnosia shows how there is more research to be done, however it may be difficult considering the small population of people that have the disorder. I agree that it would be interesting to look at different brain areas of people with face blindness to further understand the disorder. Hopefully, some more research will be done in the future because it is a fascinating topic.

  2. ewooten

    I think that this post and topic are really interesting! It’s something we all can relate to- how many times has someone amicably greeted you by name while you just mindlessly stare back at them struggling to remember who they are? Too many times to be comfortable, for sure. I was surprised to see how common it is, as I thought this severe disorder version of not recognizing people was not that common. I would also think that it would be a very scary disorder to have, as you would inevitably end up in a situation with someone telling you that they’re someone you know and are close to, and maybe you even love them, but you don’t know if that’s true or not as you simply cannot recognize their face. I think it would make sense if people with this disorder also ended up being a bit paranoid. I can also see how it could hurt relationships, as you discussed with Brad Pitt (who I was surprised to see as a person with the disorder). It would be very frustrating to constantly have to introduce yourself to someone who is supposed to know you, and probably also guilt-inducing when you got frustrated because you would know that your friend has a disorder.

  3. aupadhya

    I had no idea that prosopagnosia was as common as 1 in 50 people having the disorder! That really changes the way that I think about it. I thought it was a rare disorder, but it’s interesting to think about the fact that a lot of people have the disorder and struggle to recognize faces. In the last paragraph you mentioned that there is still a lot we don’t know about the disorder, such as what genes are involved. This is something I think researchers should focus on because since the disorder is genetic, it could help determine if someone will end up inheriting it. I also wonder that if more research is done about the causes of this disorder, more thorough and successful treatment plans will develop to help people who have prosopagnosia.

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