Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia is the medical term for being face blind. This is an extremely interesting condition in which a person lacks the ability to recognize faces. I heard about this today in a Radio Lab episode. It seems all of the really interesting things that I learn about are from that show.

Anyway, being "face blind" means that you can't recognize people's faces. In extreme cases this can be as severe as not recognizing your own mother. If you were face blind, you could only recognize people by their hair style, or their voice, or if they always wore some identifying mark. It kind of reminds me of the boy from the Life of Pi not being able to recognize that plain faced man.

One of the most interesting thing about prosopagnosia is how pervasive it is. Some people estimate that as much as 3% of the population suffers from this condition. Three percent! That's so many! I think people are just embarrassed by not being able to recognize others that they try to hide this problem.

If you want to test yourself to see if you actually are face blind, you can take this free test. I took the first test which tested your ability to recognize unfamiliar faces. It was pretty difficult, but I am happy to report that I got 71 of the 72 questions right.

How did you do?

7 comments:

Syl said...

I got 70 out of 72 right. I was actually kind of nervous while I was taking it.

Patricia said...

Oh, Bryan, you're really good! I thought I would do better than I did, but it was kind of hard! I only got 61 out of 72 right, and it was a little stressful. Hair would help a lot!

Kathy Haynie said...

Whoa, I got 63/72, or 88%. Made me feel like I was walking down the hall at high school and trying to remember if the kid I just passed and said "hello" to had been one of my students...

Trish is right, hair would help a lot. Looks like you'll do well at recognizing/remembering your future patients.

Polly said...

I got 74% right. I was kind of surprised I didn't do better. Of course I was kind of distracted by the kids while I was doing it, in particular during some of the memorize time...I know...excuses, excuses.

Katie said...

56 out of 72. 78%. Perhaps not as high as I thought I'd score, but I think fairly accurate.

Charlie and Diane Winger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D said...

46 of 72 (64%)
I've taken this test several times over the past 18 months, and usually score in the 40s unless I use my usual tricks for recognizing people (which I have to do all the time) -- E.g. come up with a verbal description of their individual features and memorize the description. As I took the test, I sometimes thought they were presenting the same face in question after question. Other times I was sure that none of the faces had ever been shown before.

I consider myself to be faceblind, but not severely. I never have problems recognizing people I know extremely well, and I sometimes remember a few people after just one meeting. However, I remember them because of some very specific facial feature (e.g. a mole, a slightly crooked tooth, a scar), not because I remember what their face looked like overall.