Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Navel-gazing, part two: face blindness
Bar Harbor
After watching a bunch more Veronica Mars, and cogitating some, I have come to some new insights. While there is definitely a social aspect to my not being able to distinguish between the various "pretty boy" characters on that show, I don't think that that's all of it. I think I actually have some degree of face blindness.

I tend to identify people (visually) based on their hair and clothing at least as much, possibly much more than, their faces. The "pretty boys" on Veronica Mars are almost all "clean cut": short, generally brownish hair -- not at all distinctive. In the episode where Duncan shows up at the dance with his hair greased back, I didn't recognize him at first. Similarly, these characters all dress "well", but they don't have "costumes", their clothes change from week to week -- nothing distinctive for me to latch on to.

Going back in my life, I can think of two films that are very important to me that highlight this. In "The Empire Strikes Back", when Luke goes into the Spooky Tree on Dagobah, and has a vision of battling Darth Vader, when Vader's mask comes off it reveals -- a nondescript face. I didn't realize until considerably after after my first viewing that that was Luke's own face. Near the end of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil", there's a sequence where we see what at first appears (from her clothing and voice) to be the protagonist's mother, flirting with a bunch of young men. When she turns to face the camera, we see that her face is young and beautiful -- well, she had been indulging in a lot of plastic surgery over the course of the film. Again, it wasn't until much later that I realized that that *specific* young and beautiful face was that of the protagonist's love interest. When the 'costume' of a character carries different information than that character's face, I don't actualy *see* the face properly.

Even earlier in my life, circa age 10, I remember a possibly significant incident. My mother had had very long hair all my life, and one day she decided to cut it short. I was furious -- absolutely enraged. Mom was merely amused by my reaction, and I myself didn't know why I had it. I think now that it was partially because that hair was how I identified her. By changing it so radically, she was becoming someone I didn't recognize as my mother.

Face blindness is something I first read about some years back, but only just now realized might apply to me. Looking at the above site, I see that face blindness is linked to Asperger's, which I've suspected in myself. It's also linked to "topographic agnosia" -- given my lousy experience as a navigator, and my poor performance when I've attemped to create physical spaces for games, that seems like at least a partial match to me as well.

  • 1
I'm not sure you should use the "pretty boys" as a datapoint, because such types do tend to be cast fairly uniform. However, the rest of your post is interesting.

Related question out of curiosity (which may relate back to your topic), for women to whom you are attracted, if it's not a pretty face, what is it?

It can be a number of things, but they're almost all... (pondering...) No, they're *all* behavioral. Sometimes the behaviour is of a physical nature (backrubs, etc), but it's always something they do, not something about their bodies. I mean, I can and do feel physically attracted to a pretty face or body, but I've never actually pursued someone on that basis. In your case, I first "really noticed" you during a game of Fox & Geese. kestrell I first "really noticed" her when I tossed out a moderately obscure movie quote, and she instantly replied with the appropriate following line.

I have a definite measure of prosopagnosia. I prefer to use the technical term, because the term "face blindness" is used to refer to two distinct phenoms, of which I only experience the one you describe. The other is difficulty parsing faces. To my astonishment, I score pretty normal -- or a little above -- on my ability to recognize emotion on strangers' faces, even when tested just on eyes. So I know what someone is feeling, I just don't know who they are. :)

The "face blindness" that runs with the Autistic Spectrum is parsing, I've never heard of recognition being an issue before.

Even earlier in my life, circa age 10, I remember a possibly significant incident. My mother had had very long hair all my life, and one day she decided to cut it short. I was furious -- absolutely enraged.

When I was three, my mother left me with friends to get her hair cut; as far as I could tell, she never came back! :/ Seriously: I can vividly remember the very Twilight Zone experience of being able to hear my mother's voice right next to me, and everyone standing around saying "She's right there", and not being able to see my mother anywhere.

And then there was that week of kindergarden I spent wondering where my best friend was, and when we were going to be introduced to the new girl with the nifty braids. I think she spent the week wondering why I wasn't talking to her.

Around that time, I started learning to compensate. I got so good at compensating, I managed to keep interested parties from realizing just how near-sighted I had become for years. After all, I could recognize someone from further away than anyone else could even see his face. Let's hear it for school vision screenings.

Today, I use all sorts of deliberate tricks and aids to compensate, especially since I'm going into a human services field(!). For instance, since I am better at remembering who someone is by where they sat, I write down seating charts in classes and meetings.

Yeah, movies are a challenge in that regard. I've given up pride and started asking tn3270. "Whoozat? Are we supposed to recognize him?"

I know what someone is feeling, I just don't know who they are. :)

Something else we have in common, then :-)

I don't think you're likely to have Asperger's. You have too much interest/skill at interpersonal interaction, psychology, and how people think and behave. Face blind, I'd believe, but not Aspergers. I have a friend with a kid Will's age who's clearly Aspergers.

I was married for 17 years. About 4 years after my divorce, I saw my ex-husband at a play. He didn't recognize me. I was astounded. (I'd asked him, "Hello Glenn. How are you?" He replied politely, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" He didn't say my name, and looked at me as if I was a stranger he didn't know. I said, "You don't recognize me, do you?" He stared at me a second, looked shocked, and gave me a shove, as he realized who I was.) Clearly, he's got the same thing you do. I wonder if he might be Aspergers...

It has been a very long time (if ever) since you have seen me in a social situation where there were a significant proportion of "strangers" around. My "interest/skill at interpersonal interaction" goes *way* down among people whom I'm not already very comfortable with. You happen to be one of the people whom I managed to move out of the "stranger" category quite quickly and smoothly after I met you (which I expect cvirtue was a significant catalyst for), so you may not have seen much of that side of me.

That said, I view the whole Asperger's thing as a spectrum, not black and white. I am clearly not as far on that spectrum as some people, but I'm well out of the norm for mainstream society. In fandom/SCA, I expect I'm fairly median :-/

Hum. Absolutely with you on the face agnosia (except it was my father, and I was...somewhere between 5 and 8), but I've always been on the high side of average in map-reading and related topographia--nothing special, just competent enough at the one that I'm surprised to hear it's linked with t'other.

And TV pretty-boys really do all look alike.

Well, the article linked to above said that the two conditions "often run together", but certainly not always.

Fascinating. Here's a question: do you hit the same issue in the SCA? I mean, I think of the Society as having a fairly modest number of "types" when it comes to physical description -- I'm bog-standard generic for one of them. (Short, slightly thick build with brown hair, ponytail and glasses.) Do you find that you signal on garb within the Society context?

This is pure curiosity from the outside -- while I have an almost complete inability to remember names, I always know whether I have seen someone before, and *usually* can remember at least vague context. I'm very intrigued by the syndrome. (Cognitive science always being a cool topic.)

As for Asperger's -- I dunno. I'd be surprised if you had it more than slightly. I seem to perceive it pretty strongly in other people, at an intuitive level...

Do you find that you signal on garb within the Society context?

... ... I have no idea. Will have to self-examine more (once I eventually un-GAFIATE, that is).

If you were a few inches taller, you'd be bog-standard, but as you are, I think not.

  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account