Prosopagnosia Research at Bournemouth University

Prosopagnosia Discussion Board


Posted By Dr Sarah Bate on 4th Feb 2013 at 10:25

Should you 'come out' as a prosopagnosic? This is a sensitive issue and people have reported both negative and positive consequences of 'going public' about their difficulties with faces. What is your viewpoint on this? What are the issues for employment, the safety of children at school, and in sharing the information with family and friends?

Posted By Heidi on 4th Jan 2020 at 9:08

Reply to Gillian 2017 - I always knew I was off the bottom of the normal scale at recognising people & remembering data about them . I always make a joke of it & tell people I'm shite at remembering people , but I'm great at recognising flowers ! Mine is - I think - failure to see people when I was young . I had poor eyesight but this wasn't detected until my first eyetest at age 7 . Until then , I'd never seen a whole tree , a cloud or people's faces unless they were very close to me . My parents ignored me a lot , no grandparents or siblings so I used my schoolfriend as a human guide dog , gardened , read about dinosaurs & watched TV all the time . I think that I missed the window of opportunity to learn to link spoken names , birthdays etc with faces . So that part of my brain got reallocated to remembering written data - I won a 'name the dinosaur' contest at a holiday camp age 7 against 14 year olds ! And I passed RHS Stage 2 Horticulture - which required recognising plants & flowers - 3 years ago .

Posted By Mitchell on 20th Jan 2017 at 14:07

I'd love to be able to submit genetic data to help research in this area. I have "23 and me" data for myself, and would be happy to contribute that or even a sample for full sequencing.

Posted By Gillian on 11th Jan 2017 at 23:37

For me, even before I knew my condition had a name, I have had to be open about my inability to recognise people - especially since I split up with my partner who used to always help me by pointing out people to me. Now I am on my own I have a standard parting phrase "Next time we meet, you need to remind me of your name and where we met before because I am really sorry but I will not be able to recognise you". I am a very sociable person and meet lots and lots of new people so this is the only way I can cope! It takes about 10 - 20 meetings for me to start to recognise someone.

Posted By Jan on 10th Jul 2016 at 19:30

I was so relieved when I found out about prosopagnosia earlier this year as I have spent most of my life wondering why I found it so hard to remember people. I tell people all the time now as it saves embarrassment and I am also fascinated to find out if others are like me. Friends and colleagues get great mileage out of taking the mickey but can also be invaluable when say the top boss arrives unexpectedly! I feel far more relaxed and comfortable without the anxiety of trying to cover up for not knowing someone. My issue is mild and I do quickly get used to people I see regularly. So far I have had no negative reaction to telling people.

Posted By Amanda on 2nd Jul 2016 at 8:03

I first read something about face-blindness in a Sunday supplement, and like for so many others here,it was like a light going on. Now I always tell people, especially if I meet them in a context other than one-to-one. I just say that apparently I have a condition that makes it difficult to recognise faces. Follow that with a jokey line about the average sheep being better able to remember faces than I do, and a request that if they see me out and about to come up and say who they are. No-one so far has been offended. My husband still finds it very hard to understand that I often dont regognise people I met yesterday, rarely that I met last week and almost certainly have no recollection of someone i met a year ago. He does remember them, and attaches facts to them (which again I do not), although I am likely to recognise them from a synopsis - "this is x who is a member of z and whose son does y". His cry of "you must recognise them, how on earth can you not recognise them!" was one of the things that alerted me to having a problem. That, and failing to recognise pupils in a class when I was a student teacher

Posted By Rachel on 10th May 2016 at 1:42

I will come out because it scares me and I want to let them know it is not them. Mine started after an accident so people understand because so many bpeople have accidents,

Posted By Renae on 15th Aug 2015 at 19:37

Although I have on occasion told husband I want a t-shirt that says "don't be offended, I just don't know who you are or what you mean"

Posted By Renae on 15th Aug 2015 at 19:27

I have always been concerned about personal safety (eg "that girl can't pick me out of a line up" type of thinking) but do tell people when I need to, particularly at work. My prosopagnosia is fairly obvious, I never used to tell workmates but they would quickly figure it out. I could be talking to a client for 20 minutes, they walk away for 2 minutes and come back, I treat them like a new person, so colleagues quickly learn to tell me if I should know who the person approaching is. I now work in disability and around therapists so it is easier to tell them. I have tried telling people socially when I've met them a few times so they know I'm not being rude, but i need people's reactions to be very clear as I also don't recognise facial expressions so I'm never sure how they took it, but it does tend to bring the conversation to a halt so I'm quite sure im not getting a good reaction. Most people don't understand what "I can't recognise faces" means so I usually tell them that it's actually a disorder and for example I can't tell that identical twins look the same, or know who pictures of famous people in magazines are.

Posted By Anonymous on 14th Nov 2014 at 19:37


Posted By Ashley on 3rd Jul 2014 at 3:48

Oh, and thank you anonymous for the idea of explaining face blindness with the picture of geese. Its so hard to explain to people why I can't recognize their faces.

Posted By Ashley on 3rd Jul 2014 at 3:47

I have shared with my coworkers that I work with daily and they have been extremely helpful although they do like teasing me. When I confided in them they asked a bunch of questions which I didn't mind answering. Now they will help me recognize other people in the workplace. I know that I can discretely ask them who someone is and they will tell me with out any questions. Other coworkers will come right out and tell me who they are when they start talking to me "Hey Ashley its Jill... (etc)" Next school year we are adding a couple new members to our team so we have been talking about using some sort of name tag or something to help me out. I work in special education so my coworkers are used to making adaptions for an individual. I am a homebased special education teacher which means I go into individual homes to work with children and families so my face blindness is not usually an issue. I know that the adult female is usually mom or grandma, the adult male dad/grandpa, etc. I have gotten in trouble a few times when I mistook an aunt for the mom or something similar. I also go into daycares which is a nightmare. The turnover rate for daycare providers is usually high so I never know if I am talking to the same teacher from week to week. I often need help to find the child I am supposed to work with. Eventually I'll start to recognize them but it takes a very long time.

Posted By ashley on 20th Sep 2013 at 6:16

Hello everyone! Happy to read I am not alone. Although I think i have a milder case of faceblindness; it has recently caused me issues at work. I am a nurse and I have difficulty recognizing my patients if they leave their hospital room or change out of their hospital gown into regular clothes. Its even worse with family members who come up to me outside the patients room. A few days ago one of my patients eloped/left without being discharged and I was unable to give security or my supervisor ANY descriptived details about his appearance. Luckily the nursing assistant was able to give them more information. My boss reamed me out infront of all my coworkers and said she doesn't think i have any real problem with "faceblindness" and I just need to pay more attention. She said i now need to start writing down a facial description of all my patients when i go in the room. Although I never cry at work, I began sobbing. I try so hard to be a good nurse, i take great care of my patients and my coworkers compliment me on how thorough i am. I really feel helpless. Does anyone know of any books or anything to help train yourself to better remember faces?

Posted By Nicola on 23rd Aug 2013 at 21:57

I think coming out is the best strategy but you need to have the confidence to start doing it. I usually fail to mention it soon enough and then feel it is too late after the converation/discussion has gone on for a bit. I have found that the stress of socialising has led to me leading a rather solitary, hermit-like exsistence. I have told my family and closest friends and on some occasions the thread of a conversation has allowed me to bring it up with less well known people or even relative strangers. The reaction tends to be mystification and even my good friends find it hard to really believe that I can't recognise them out of context although I have warned them that if I don't know them they must tell me who they are. Of course, with a lifetime's coping behind me I can quite often work out who they are somehow, which only reinforces their belief that either I don't really have a problem or they forget that I do. I often think I have got a face clear in my head but when I see it in real life and not in it's normal place I am fazed immediately. Having chatted with a friend for half an hour at her work and then 3 hours later saw her out in the street and couldn't be sure if it was her - same fizzy red hair, right height but was it that face? I wait until she made the eye contact with me and when I see the recognition from her I finally stop to talk. Without her spark I would have lowered my gaze or looked away and if she had then called me I would have had to pretend that I was in a dream/thinking about something/the usual extemporising. Until I found out what was wrong with me I had got a reputaion for being a strange, sometimes otherworldly creature, either walking round with a perpetual smile for everyone or completely blanking everyone out. Even meeting my family or boyfriend at the airport or station leaves me with a racing pulse and butterflies.

Posted By Anonymous on 21st Jul 2013 at 11:20

Hola soy Celia Cairón,he sufrido este problema de prosopagnosia a un nivel creo que leve. No me incapacitaba para relacionarme con mis familiares ni amigos cercanos porque los veía a menudo,creo, pero si con gente a la que había tratado por un tiempo y dejaba de ver.También tenía problemas para reconocer a personajes conocidos, mi dificultad se centraba sobretodo a la hora de poner los nombres. Tengo 41 años y esto me ocurría desde siempre. Recientemente me han diagnosticado una enfermedad que aparentemente no está relacionada con la prosopagnosia pero el tratamiento que estoy llevando está solucionando el problema hasta tal punto que me parece que no la he sufrido nunca. Obligatóriamente y con todos mis respetos tengo que estar en desacuerdo con la doctora cuando afirma rotundamente que "NO tiene cura" porque cuando no conocemos la solución, algunos afirmamos que no existe pero, a veces, no existe hasta que se encuentra. Personalmente creo que no deberíamos ser tan rotundos en todo lo que se refiera a la ciencia y en particular al cerebro humano. Escribo porque si se me está solucionando este transtorno, que conocí cuando estudiaba en la facultad de psicología y que me ha venido dando problemas toda la vida, quizás se pueda ayudar a otras personas y puede que se haga un pequeño avance aunque muchas veces lo que sirve para uno no sirve para otros desgraciadamente. Para mí poder ahora distinguir claramente a Paul Newman es todo un avance y quisiera ayudar en lo que pueda a otros. Me gustaría hablar con ustedes y poder darles todas las explicaciones pertinentes en privado. Reciban un cordial saludo.

Posted By Anonymous on 12th Jun 2013 at 16:13

One last thing ---- because I teach a class in the prison, it's perhaps not the safest thing in the world to confess that I can't remember faces to a bunch of convicted felons. Perhaps I'm opening myself up to future danger. I hope not, but the possibility is real I guess.

Posted By Anonymous on 12th Jun 2013 at 16:10

I posted a reply on 8 Feb 2013. Since then I've "outed myself" several times. I've regretted some of the self-revealing I've done. I teach a class in a prison and told one group of inmates that I cannot reliably recognize them. I told them "I'm your defense attorney's dream witness." They thought that was very funny indeed. I told my boss at work and she used it against me to get me fired. I told a whole club of people, and now a whole new raft of people tease me when they see me. I've come up with a way to explain it a bit to people. I take a photo of two Canada Geese. I point out that the two geese look different from one another. One has a wider chin strap than the other. One has a whiter chest than the other. Once people say 'Yes, I see that the two geese are different from one another', I show them a second picture. The second picture is the same two geese but now in their flock. Oh boy! I've yet to meet a person who can find the first two geese in the photo once they see the flock of geese. That's how it is for me and people. Not that people look like geese, but .... While I'm talking to you I can see your face. I can see your eye color, eyebrow shape, nose shape, chin shape, etc. But once I close my eyes, I cannot describe your face or find you reliably among a group of similar looking people. I also tell people that for the sake of marital harmony, my husband and I have stopped watching Hitchcock black and white movies together. Goshdarnit, don't all the men in the movie have the same build, same hair cut, and same suit?! How am I supposed to remember which is the murderer if they all look exactly alike?! So, my husband is tired of saying "that's the bad guy, that's the bad guy's brother, that's the bad guy's boss...." and the like. So, for marital harmony I just watch TV and movies mainly by myself. In a 1950s black and white movie, the characters look about as distinguishable from one another as all those storm troopers in the Star Wars movies! Anyway ---- by revealing the prosopagnosia difference, be prepared for teasing and for people to use the issue against you. I wasn't prepared for either of these things as I started to explain my issue to people. Sigh.

Posted By Diane on 28th May 2013 at 15:16

Great article! Thanks for sharing that. I've posted links on Facebook and twitter.

Posted By Unknown on 26th May 2013 at 20:43

After reading about actor Brad Pitt and his apparent Prosopagnosia, I wrote this piece about my experiences for the website Open Salon and my blog. I believe admitting it, and informing people will ultimately be beneficial to the victim.

Posted By Diane on 21st May 2013 at 17:35

OK - I've just "come out" in a big way. My novel with a core theme of prosopagnosia has just been released, and I included information in my "About the author" blurb to confirm that I am face blind. "Coming out" as face blind is also an important thread in the plot. So far this feels really good to have done.

Posted By Richard on 22nd Apr 2013 at 17:08

As several people have mentioned, it's a great relief to have it given a name. At last I can shake the idea that I'm a latent psychotic who doesn't care enough about others to remember them from one hour to the next! Often I have thought how much better my life would be if I could remember faces and names. I haven't been as brave as Dianne in preemptive damage control, by warning people that I won't recognise them but now that my failing has a name, I'm thinking how much easier it will be to explain the situation. I'm considering getting my business cards reprinted to read: Richard, Entrepreneur, Prosopagnostic.

Posted By Isobel on 8th Apr 2013 at 16:25

Like Colin, I first read about prosopagnosia in New Scientist, and when I did, it was such a relief to stop feeling guilty about not recognising people. Never mind them thinking I wasn't paying enough attention - I thought I couldn't be! I'm not severely affected; I can recognise people when I know them well, but it does take time. The more distinctive-looking someone is, the faster I can learn to recognize them. At work, I'll learn the girl with the long, red hair or the boy with the glasses and the pony tail faster than other students but, if they change their hairstyle I'll think there's a new student in the class... I've told my family and friends and they are sympathetic and helpful. They do tease me but I don't mind. When I meet a class of new students, I warn them that I am very bad at faces, that it will take me a while to tell them apart and that I probably won't recognise them outside the classroom. They are usually fine with this, and if someone I don't recognise starts to talk to me I have learned to say, as soon as I can, "I'm sorry, I'm really bad with faces. Please remind me who you are".This is embarassing, but less so than if I try to bluff and get caught out. Ideally, I'd like to warn everyone I meet when I first meet them but sometimes this would just seem strange. You can't tell, for example, the checkout operator at the supermarket, the man who stops you in the street to ask for directions or the lady you chat to in the waiting room at the doctors. You probably will never see these people again; it would just seem really weird to tell them you don't remember faces, but so embarassing if, later, they say 'hello' and you've no idea who they are! I've been caught out, like Jill, more than once, and I still cringe at the memory. How do you bring the subject up?

Posted By Diana on 29th Mar 2013 at 10:17

My son has recently heard about prosopagnosia and recognised that this is the disability I have. I have found increased confidence being able to tell people why I may not recognise them. I would welcome increased awareness of prosopagnosia, and an easy way to let people know I have the condition. A simple idea would be to promote the wearing of a badge - for example, a discreet enamel badge - rather in the way one might wear a ribbon in support of breast cancer or AIDS awareness. I imagine two sets of badges, each portraits, one with a face including all features, the other with hair but with features erased. Those who have no problems recognising faces will wear the badge with the complete face; those with prosogagnosia can wear the badge with face left out. With the badge will come the instruction: 'I may not recognise your face, even if you are a good friend. When you greet me, please be prepared to tell me your name and let me know how I know you.' The badges to be sold not for profit, at shops, schools, post offices, doctors' surgeries etc. I'll be interested to hear what others think about this.

Posted By Colin on 26th Mar 2013 at 19:44

I came across prosopagnosia in an article in New Scientist a few years ago and a great big light went on in my head. I then went online and did tests through and found I was towards the severe end of the spectrum. At first I was a bit shocked by this and I didn't tell anyone other than my girlfriend (which led to a rather awkward conversation about the fact that I couldn't recognise her in public if I didn't memorise what clothes she was wearing and how she had her hair before I left the house!) Since then I've followed the strategy of telling new people I meet, most of whom are quite interested and I've had no bad responses (not even from a pair of police officers when I told them that while I'd seen someone commit a particular crime I couldn't describe what the person looked like or pick them out of a line up). With people I knew before, it's been a bit different (mostly because they tend to get a little hurt when they realise I've known them for years but can't actually recognise them). I tend to tell as and when it comes up. Of those I've told, only one has been a bit odd in that he just doesn't believe that it can be true and thinks I'm just not putting in the effort (this is his view on a lot of things) but he accepts that as far as I'm concerned I have problems in this area. The main people I haven't actually told yet are my family. For some reason I'm dreading that one most of all (I think it's the idea of telling my elderly parents that I don't actually know what they look like that I'm uneasy with). In general I'd always say to people to tell others because it makes my life a little easier when I ignore someone I should recognise (I can just remind them gently that it's nothing personal and that I don't really recognise anyone!)

Posted By Jacques on 24th Mar 2013 at 10:35

I've discovered prosopagnosia recently in a book about evolutive psychology, and confirmed I was affected by doing online tests - and failing them! Since then, I systematically explain it in simple words to the (many) people I fail to recognise. Sometimes it mitigates their anger for what they perceive as "a lack of interest in their person", sometimes they just accuse me of using a cheap excuse. Still, I feel very much better knowing the reason for my handicap. Many thanks to prosopagnosia researchers!

Posted By Yiannis on 23rd Mar 2013 at 3:47

I may have a unique perspective on this, as a gay man, b/c I've already been through one coming out process. For a long time, I didn't come out about prosopagnosia, not because of what I thought people would think of me--I'd already overcome that hurdle, with the first coming out--but rather what I thought people would think I thought of them. That is to say, people unfamiliar with the condition can interpret their not being recognized to me they've not made enough of an impression on your life to be *remembered* when remembering a person and being able to reliable recognize him/her are completely separate things. It was a co-worker (who knew), who suggested I be more forthright after watching me engage in an elevator conversation--all the while "covering"--with a woman who obviously knew me, but whom I did not recognize (and did not want to admit I didn't recognize). I couldn't be more glad for her advise. I can't control people's reaction to my coming out as having face blindness, any more than I could control their reaction to my coming out as queer...but it's not my place to. That's *their* reaction and they have to own it...not me; I'm responsible for owning standing in my truth. You say you've heard of both negative and positive consequences to coming out. Haven't you heard the same of staying in?

Posted By Paul on 22nd Mar 2013 at 21:08

Coming out has been a huge help to me: I tell each new class of students that I'm very sorry, but I won't recognise them outside the classroom. Fortunately I am good at names (well, I worked hard at that as a young man, to compensate for my inability at faces, and I can still do it) and if they sit in the same place each week I can keep track of them till I learn them. I think coming out has actually helped me to learn new faces, as I think about it more. So far everyone has been fine, and a few (a very few - in fact only one I think) have reported the same problem. The more people who come out the more it is understood, the better for everyone (easy to say, i know - I'm 55 and don't care - much harder for someone younger and less confident). Also I'm much less embarassed now about getting confused when watching films, and can ask someone who's who. For me it's all been positive, so I definitely recomend it.

Posted By helen on 22nd Mar 2013 at 21:06

at a funeral recently, meeting old neighbors, my brother confessed to me that he was face blind! amazing, as it took him 46 years to first figure it out and then htat he and i have the same condition, both of us would probably be classified as mild,but at these get ot gethers i find it really stressful and have to rely on people to name themselves or be prompted as they approach. my 11 year old daughter was given a book about the brain and it was she who first diagnosed me, since then its been on tv and is more widely known about, and she, falling into the role of teh helping child is my main prompter. i have begun to excuse myself but increasimgly people get it from my facial expression, that i dont really recognize them and introduce themselves again with a reminder of how i know them. my main strategy is to mark out something odd in the features, but more likely ill take note of clothes or stature or skin. its good its becoming more widely known.i do the same as diane these days, when i meet someone new.

Posted By Diane on 22nd Mar 2013 at 15:36

I often keep it simple with people I don't know really well -- "I have a hard time remembering faces, so please excuse me if I don't recognize you." People seem to relate to that, comparing (or confusing) it with being bad with names. It isn't until I know someone better that I might try to explain prosopagnosia and distinguish it from being "bad with names." It's helping that I can now refer them to some websites and the 60 Minutes segment (US Television) so they understand that I'm not just making something up!

Posted By Jill on 18th Mar 2013 at 19:59

Definitely we should 'come out'. I suspect if I am formally tested I will only show up as mildly affected. But it is an embarrassing problem for me. I am a community psychiatric nurse, I meet lots of social workers, other nurses, carers, lots and lots of people, and that's before I even started on the people I meet outside of work. The worst thing I ever did was just after I'd got married, and had been invited to my husband's friend's house for a meal, then bumped into the wife who had sat across the table from me only the week before, and I didn't recognise her and wondered why this stranger in the hairdresser was nodding and smiling at me. I don't think we have spoken since. If I arrange to meet somebody, unless I know he/she will be the only person present, I won't always recognise them. Unless it is something really obvious, like I know I'm meeting a woman and a man and a woman are in the room so I know which one to pick, I have to hope the conversation goes in a way that will remind me where I've met them. Meetings at work are just as bad. I spend the entire meeting trying to learn the names and faces of the other people round the table, for the next time I meet them. Needless to say, meeting people out of context is an impossible situation and I fret about where I must have met this person before, since he/she clearly knows who I am. If only I could definitely say I have this problem, instead of just being ignorant or rude, it would be so helpful. It takes me 10 - 12 meetings before I fix somebody's face in my mind, and even then I'm likely to forget if I don't see them for a while. I have also forgotten the names of people I worked very closely with for a long time, just because I haven't seen them for maybe a year. It is quite stressful. I even met a relative of mine not so long ago, whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years, in a situation where I was half-expecting to meet her, and I STILL had to examine her face closely to be sure who she was before I spoke to her. It would be so helpful if I could say "How do you do, I have prosopagnosia, do you know what that is?"

Posted By Anonymous on 8th Feb 2013 at 18:15

What a great question! I have only learned within the last few years about this issue, and I've been very private about it. I have told one person with whom I work relatively closely because she was mystified as to why I would have trouble remembering who's who when we co-taught a class. This has had consequences that are good. She has been much more helpful about telling me who's who when it's clear I cannot remember. However, it has also had a downside. She teases me in a friendly way about my issue and I'm getting tired of it. I know it's not meant to be hurtful. I know that my inability to recognize faces is completely mysterious to her, like a proposition in nuclear physics. But still, I don't need to be teased every time we encounter each other. I guess I need to ask her to stop teasing me. I have hinted to my current employer that this is an issue I have. I haven't mentioned it outright. But people notice that I have trouble with certain aspects of my job. I work in a Kindergarten classroom. Surely all the children look different from one another. But GOSH! Is it hard for me to learn their names! Unreasonably hard. Way harder for me than for others. Even the itinerant teachers who only see the kids for an hour a week learn the children's names faster than I do... and I see them EVERY DAY! When three or four little boys are all the same build, have the same hair cut, and have eyes of a similar shade? Forget about it. I'm not remembering which one is Danny, which is Max, and which is Peter. With girls it's a little easier, because mostly girls have different hair styles. Recently I got moved from one classroom to another. ARGH! Just when I was nearly able to call every student in classroom #1 by the correct name, I got transferred to classroom #2. Oh my. Well, they'll just have to tolerate being called "honey", "darling", "handsome", and "m'love" for a while... maybe even through the rest of the school year. I haven't worried about my prosopagnosia causing issues with my children's safety at school. I am grateful that the majority of the world does NOT suffer this problem. That means it's highly unlikely that my child's teacher the the school nurse, secretary, principal, etc are going to accidentally release my child to a stranger instead of me. It's more likely that I'd bring home the wrong child and find myself in trouble with the law! Ha ha. But that's highly unlikely too since the same principal, secretary, nurse, and teacher are looking out for the other child's interests and are unlikely to let me take home the wrong child. They might wonder why I tried to take home Johnny instead of my own son. I might be very embarrassed. But I don't see much of a safety issue here. Mostly I keep the info to myself. I'm rather embarrassed by it, frankly. I guess that's how a dyslexic person feels when he/she mixes up 61 and 16, or GEARS versus RAGES. If anything, learning that my issue is real and has a name makes me more sensitive to those who have struggles with other visual processing like people who have dyslexia.

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