Face Blind

Today I read a fascinating article in Wired Magazine issue 14.11 about prosopagnosia — face blindness. People suffering from this condition — and recent research suggests it could be up to 2% of the population — have difficulty recognizing faces. In severe cases, sufferers cannot recognize any faces, including the faces of their spouses or children!

I was particularly interested in this article because I’m not very good at recognizing faces myself; I’m sometimes unsure if someone is who I think they are, and I’ve mistaken strangers for people that I know in the past. The worst example, though, happened about 10 years ago: I bumped into my cousin Tracey and completely failed to recognize her, even though we used to see each other weekly growing up.

Anyway, the Wired article included this handy facial recognition test, which I hope they won’t mind me reproducing (in modified, low-res, heavily-credited and entirely not-for-personal-gain form) here:

I was only able to recognize 3 of the 6 faces: A, B & F.

I tried it on a couple of other people, and they were both able to get 6 out of 6 (although one of my test subjects had a little trouble with D, as it’s kind of a weird picture).

So it looks as if I’m partially face blind! Anyway, I filled out a survey form at faceblind.org, the website of the Prosopagnosia Research Centers at Harvard University and University College London.

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