Face Blindness (Prosopagnosia) Test and Review: A Strange Disorder
Living with a strange disorder
Imagine for a moment: you walk into your favorite bar after work to meet up with some mates. It’s dimly-lit and crowded. You check the usual corner booth for familiar faces, but they are nowhere in sight. You get discouraged, hang your head and start for the door. Just then, the people in the usual corner booth call your name and push a chair out for you. You had looked straight at them a second ago, but hadn’t recognized them.
Imagine once again: you are stopped abruptly in the street by an attractive member of the opposite sex. They are speaking to you as if they’ve known you for years. At the same time, you are thinking, “I have no idea who this person is.”
These situations maybe difficult, or even bizarre to imagine, but they’re regular situations that happen far too often for people who suffer from prosopagnosia. Prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, is an interesting disorder revealed just over half a century ago. The term prosopagnosia is derived from Greek: prosop meaning “face”, and agnosi meaning “without knowledge”. Accordingly, those affected with the disorder lack the ability to recognize distinguishable facial features in humans. In the most extreme cases, sufferers are unable to recognize their own mothers, or even themselves in the mirror. More common are milder cases in which the sufferer is able to identify the familiar from the unfamiliar by using groups of visual clues such as distinct facial features, voices, hair, body movements, or clothing.
A film that gives a short description of prosopagnosia
Where does face blindness come from?
The intuitive ability to recognize faces is one that develops early on in the life of a child. During a child’s weaning period, he or she learns the skills needed to distinguish the face of their mother and father, and later applies these skills to do the same for others. Those who suffer from face blindess have somehow broken or disrupted the circuitry in the brain that's responsible for this ability. Why does that happen? Well, researchers aren't sure, but they have a good idea why.
In the past, the disorder was believed to be very uncommon, and the rare result of a brain injury or stroke. More recently, German researchers have made breakthrough discoveries about the disorder and more particularly, it’s origins. Findings published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics state that prosopagnosia, face blindess, may stem from one's genes, and is more common than previously expected. Researchers have narrowed down the cause to a single defective, yet dominant gene. In other words, if either your mother or father has prosopagnosia, then you have a 50% chance of having the disorder. Surprisingly enough, it affects nearly 1 in 50 people, though the degree varies widely. This means even you could be closer to this strange disorder than you think. Take the test below to find out. At present, there is no treatment for prosopagnosia.
- Visual and face recognition test
This site provides a set of tests for testing your face recognition and different types of memory.
Take the face blindness test
Worried you might suffer from face blindness? Test your facial recognition skills. I scored a 90%...what about you?
Living with face blindness
Watch the video
It's hard to imagine what it would be like to live with this condition. In order to learn more and get an idea of what it's like for someone who lives with prosopagnosia, watch this short documentary.