The Misadventures of Quinxy truths, lies, and everything in between!

22Apr/090

My life as a Prosopagnosiaist

A few years ago I discovered something odd about myself, apparently most people are far, far better than I am at facial recognition.   I never realized it because the effects are somewhat subtle.   I've never failed to confidently recognize someone I know well, and even those I barely know I always recognize, but their recognition often comes with a great deal of uncertainty; I will logically strongly suspect it's the person I think it is, but I don't have that sense of just "knowing" it is.   Where I really run into problems is people like actors and singers who I only know in two-dimensions, when they change their hairstyle or appearance, I may not quickly recognize them.

And apparently this minor inconvenience is an under-reported condition called Prosopagnosia.  You too can see if you may have it by taking the Cambridge facial recognition test .  I took it a couple of years ago and I think I found out I was only better than 23% of  the population.  (My friend Nora took a similar test the other day and said she scored better than 98% of the population.)

So, here's my funny/odd prosopagnosia story of the day...

The other night I walked my dog, Osita, down to the cafe to meet a bunch of friends and we were sitting and talking and this guy comes out to sit down about 10 feet away with some of our other friends.  I was pretty sure I knew the guy, but I didn't have that transcendent sense of just "knowing".  The reason I was confused?  First some background on Adam.  I've seen him probably 30 times, and talked with him 1 or 2 times, but never directly for long, just part of a larger group.  Every single time I've seen him (without exception that I can recall), he is wearing a dark brown leather bomber jacket (with nametag affixed), a golfing-type hat, and 90% of the time he's smoking a cigar.  But, the other night he was wearing a baseball cap, a light tan cotton jacket (w/ fighter squadron name and patches), he was not smoking a cigar, and he seemed to be smiling more.  Now clearly I'm not an idiot, intellectually I know a pseudo-airforce-y jacket means it must be Adam, I've met no other people in my life who hadn't fought in WWII who would wear such a jacket.  And his face did not look inconsistent with the Adam I can semi-"clearly" see in my memory, though oddly that guy has slightly darker skin complection.  But even though I'm observing this guy for 30 or more minutes while talking to my friends I still can't "see" this guy as the Adam I "know".  But, next time I see him wearing something different, and the more times that I do, the better I will have generalized the concept of Adam such that I will then "know" it's him, regardless of outfit or circumstance.  So, that's sort of what my experience is.  I need to observe a person enough to create that general model of them so that I can recognize confidently in any situation.

Next on my list of personal peculiar brain abnormalities to reveal...  my inability to sing along to songs!

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