Monday, February 4, 2013

Face Blindness, Part Five

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I have prosopagnosia, i.e. face blindness. (For more on face blindness, click here, here, and here.) In spite of FB, I’ve always believed I got along pretty well in the world. Until the other day.

My family and I were on the way home from a meeting and I mentioned someone (we’ll call him Bob). My family said, “Uh, Bob wasn’t there.” I said, “Of course, he was. I was leading a meeting and I saw Bob’s face for over fifteen minutes.” Calvin assured me that Bob couldn’t have been where I was because Cal was teaching a class and Bob was in his class.

I argued. But only briefly because everyone else agreed with Cal and since I’m face blind my person recognitions skills are limited. Even now, if I had to swear who was present I would still say Bob was there. But clearly he wasn’t.

In the end, my family figured out that Bob’s brother was actually the person who was there. And I must have confused Bob and his brother. This would be fine if Bob and his brother were similar, but they aren’t. Their coloring, height, timbre of their voice, etc., are all different. In other words, all the qualities that I use to recognize a person are different. And I still couldn’t tell them apart.

When I realized that, my hands went cold and my stomach queasy. It was as if the world moved sideways, and I didn’t. Because the inevitable question is how many times has this happened before, and I didn’t ever know it. Scary thought.

File:Mask Shopping in Venice (5372053918).jpg
Imagine how hard it would be to recognize people if everyone wore a mask--the same mask.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


  1. On the plus side, you won't ever be subpoenaed to testify in court as an eye witness...

  2. Yeah, that can be a bit worrying. But surely, there's a way to deal with it?