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Why You Can't Recognize Other People's Faces

Why You Can't Recognize Other People's Faces
From TIME - July 14, 2017

Have you ever failed to recognize a close friend or family member, particularly when you see them unexpectedly or after they have had a haircut?

If so, you might have face blindnessofficially called prosopagnosia, from the Greek word prosopon, meaning face, and agnosia, meaning ignorance. As many as 1 in 50 people have some degree of prosopagnosia, although many lead normal lives without even realizing they have it. Here's what you need to know about face blindness.

How can you tell if you are face blind?

Symptoms vary widely among those with the condition. Some may find it hard to recognize facial expressions in other people. Watching TV or movies can be a daunting task, as those with the condition may struggle to remember who the different characters are. When meeting a new person, people with face blindness may also try to remember their clothes or hairstyle instead of their face.

Not surprisingly, another trait that typically goes along with face blindness is social anxiety. Failing to understand facial expressions can lead to a difficulty forming relationships or making friends. People with face blindness may avoid social interaction, develop social anxiety disorder and even experience periods of depression, according to the National Health Service in the UK.

Heather Sellers, author of a book called You Dont Look Like Anyone I Know, told TIME in a 2010 interview that having prosopagnosia feels like having a learning disability. "Its like dyslexia," she said. "I know what a face is, but its really hard to read faces. [With dyslexia] you know what the word is, but you are going a lot more by context and takes a lot of work [to figure it out]. It feels like walking uphill into the wind."

Why do some people have face blindness?

How do you treat prosopagnosia?

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