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Browndog
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25 Nov 2011, 10:50 pm

Im looking for some advice....

So, Ive got fairly severe face blindness, Ive always had it, in the form of.... I get faces mixed up, especially if people are vaguely similar (grey hair, fat etc) because really Im just identifying them by those characteristics.

Since my aspie diagnosis (and what a relief that was!) I was able to explain to my boyfriend that I usually dont recognise people so if we are out in public and see someone he will discretely whisper their name as they approach. Instantly life is much easier!

The latest uncomfortable incident was: I had gone to meet a family of Muslim refugees that I had volunteered to help get resettled, What I didnt anticipate was that I couldnt tell the sisters apart as they all had on those head covering thingies. I mean, when they sat next to each other it was obvious they looked completely different but when one left the room I couldnt tell which one came back in despite concentrating and trying to memorise their faces. So Im trying to have a conversation and they've got fairly minimal english and I dont know if I talked to them already! Just another exciting Aspie adventure!

Lately Ive started working at a new site and it's just a constant battle to not embarass myself socially...A lot of the time I do recognise that I know the face but couldnt for the life of me say where from. Its like there's just a blank spot in my memory.
If you think about it there's no real reason it should be so embarassing..I mean, why cant you just say "Im sorry I dont remember who you are"? but it seems that it is a huge faux pas to do that. And of course the problem is that I may not recognise the same person over and over again. So the first time is ok but after the fifth or sixth they get a bit cranky....

Im at the point where Im thinking about just explaining face blindness/prosopagnosia to people, which I guess would be a positive step towards awareness but then again I dont want to expose myself too much to these people as I think some may be unkind. At the moment Im using a technique of just a vague friendly greeting to everyone I see and just fake it from there on till I figure out who they are! Anyhow I would appreciate any advice, has anyone found a way to improve facial recognition/memory OR a way to explain prosopagnosia to people?



Ai_Ling
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26 Nov 2011, 12:20 am

The only thing I can think of, is taking note of attire or objects they carry with them constantly to identify them. Cause I have faceblindness at work and its a complete pain because when I leave to find something and I come back, I have to hope they'll recognize me because I cant recognize them. And with co-workers, sometimes I dont recognize them without there uniform to the point where one co-worker had to tell me who she was. To think about it, I should really take note of attire as well at work.



ChrisVulcan
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26 Nov 2011, 2:08 am

I have an average case of faceblindness. I typically find one distinguishing characteristic about the person's face. Say, a birthmark, an oddly-shaped nose, a prominent chin, or a distinctive hairline. Also I've studied face, nose, and chin shapes, so that helps slightly.


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26 Nov 2011, 2:10 am

There are lots of cues that can be relied on--facial features, blemishes, hair, voices, the way they carry themselves, their style in clothing and dress, their jewelry. Check to see if one sister has some unusual feature. Do they have different taste in clothing? Shoes? Do they sound different when they speak? Do they have personal quirks of speech or mannerisms that you can take note of? There are also location cues: Which bedroom or office do they have? Which desk do they sit at? Don't use these exclusively because people do switch places, of course.

It's okay to admit that you're horrible at remembering faces. Many people are horrible at remembering names, and face-blindness isn't so different; so they'll generally sympathize and remind you what their names are, if asked.


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dr01dguy
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26 Nov 2011, 12:55 pm

I'm nowhere near as bad as people who say they couldn't recognize their best friend out of context, but I'm incredibly dependent upon context and supporting details (facial hair, glasses, hat/hair, tattoos, clothing) for recognition of anybody short of an immediate family member or best friend.

It's terrible to say, but if I had to pick my 3 year old nephew out of a room full of other blond 3 year olds, I couldn't do it to save my life, even if I'd seen him the previous day. I could probably pick my 5 year old niece out of a crowd, even if I hadn't seen her in a month or two, but only if I *knew* she were somewhere in the crowd and I was actively looking for her. If you just showed me pictures of crowds of children & she was among them, but you didn't tell me, I'd be unlikely to make the connection.

Interestingly, I'm largely blind to tone differences between hair that's "dark" unless I have some specific reason to really notice the presence or absence of reddish pigment.

Changes to glasses and facial hair throw me off completely. Goatee<->Beard I might be able to handle with just a little bit of extra uncertainty, but growing or shaving away will throw me off almost every time. Ditto for glasses <-> no-glasses. Changes to glasses add ambiguity, but don't throw me off anywhere near as badly.

I'm almost completely incapable of making the connection between people whose pictures I've seen, and the same people met spontaneously and unexpectedly in real life. I might eventually recognize them if I see them in a context that's blatantly obvious, but even then I'm going to go through lots of agonizing and doubt about whether it's really who I think it is.



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26 Nov 2011, 1:08 pm

I have a sales job and I am constantly trying to hide my inability to recognize people. If I really make a "connection" with someone (and I am not sure what qualifies it as being a connection, I just know I get a different sense about the person) then I will mostly likely remember who they are from then on. But otherwise it is very confusing. I wish I could explain what it is that makes me finally able to recognize someone. It is not anything visual. Maybe it is just a matter of liking the person, which is of course not something I can control. There are people who make a big impression on me by doing things I dislike, and yet I still probably couldn't pick those faces out of a crowd.



tentoedsloth
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26 Nov 2011, 2:03 pm

I'm all for explaining face blindness to anyone you expect to see again soon. If more people did that, more people would realize that it's real.

It's been a great relief to me to realize that this is an actual disorder, and I'm not just too extremely wrapped up in myself to notice other people. I've really beat myself up about it in the past. For example, I've been going to the same dentist twice a year for about 10 years. I still don't recognize anybody there but the dentist. The others come up to me with friendly hellos and even hug me, and say "How you doing girl?" and I have no idea who they are. And I sit in the chair fuming at myself for being too $%#! lazy or selfish and tell myself to PAY ATTENTION, you fool ! !!

The next time I'm there, I'll be *happy* to be able to explain. The pressure will be off! Same thing with my neighbors. I still don't know them from each other, except for the really really thin woman who speaks to me so nicely. It's just those two things that allow me to recognize her, and it's still better if she's in her own yard and not walking down the sidewalk.



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26 Nov 2011, 2:44 pm

I can identify with all what is written here. I agree that context is important to recognize people. At my workplace, I'd have good use of an intranet "who is who", picturing all employees. Unfortunately, it's still only planned.

Besides what was mentioned I do this: I talk with my coworkers by phone and try to memorize their sound and speaking style. Next time I meet them usually I can identify them by their voice, and I can make the connection between their name and look.


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26 Nov 2011, 3:21 pm

I am probably being particularly thick at this point, but why don't you simply explain you have a condition that makes you forget faces in short-term and long term memory and that while you really do try to remember faces you struggle constantly with it?

I have trouble with peoples faces and names sometimes, and I find telling them that I am having an issue with it is the best way to get around it, often I will say "your name is John isn't it?" and if I get it wrong, so what? I have tried :)


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dianthus
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26 Nov 2011, 3:30 pm

I can't think of any advice to give on this.

One time awhile back a guy told me he went to high school with me. I still live in the same place where I grew up so this is not unusual. But I had absolutely no clue who he was. He kept insisting he knew me, I think he said he was grade or two below me but he used to see me in the hallways all the time. I would have sworn I never saw him before in my life! I could tell he got really disturbed that I didn't recognize him. He kept asking me over and over, incredulously, you don't remember me? To make it worse if I ran into this guy again (and I probably have, since our paths crossed through work) I still wouldn't have any idea who he is.

My aunt lives far away and I only see her maybe once a year for a week long visit, but I do know very well what she looks like. One time while she was visiting, we went to a store, split up to do our own shopping, and at one point I walked right past her and did not know who she was. So it comes and goes even with people I normally recognize just fine.

In my job I frequently reintroduce myself to people I've already met. Sometimes it is a person I know from one location but have never seen them before at another location. Sometimes nothing is different, it is the same place, I just don't know if I've met them before. And if I just try to assume I have already met someone, odds are I probably haven't, and they will act confused and ask me who I am.



Browndog
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26 Nov 2011, 8:37 pm

Thanks everyone for your helpful suggestions...

Im going to try some of those, especially concentrating on remembering voices instead of faces, what a good idea, I cant believe I never thought of that, Ive just been so fixated on trying to remember faces!

And I absolutely agree theres no logical reason not to simply explain faceblindness and help to build more awareness...although in this case I work in a fairly hostile environment, there's lots of backstabbing and people going after other people's jobs so its probably not the best place to try out 'full disclosure" (hell, I'll probably be out of a job by next week anyhow because I've got NO CLUE whats going on with the office politics LOL)

But , in general, armed with the new knowledge I have since my diagnosis, I'd be willing to have a stab at explaining it and it would probably be a great relief from the stress of faking it.
Its strange though, I keep thinking how embarassing it would be to admit to faceblindness, when the reality is I've embarassed myself repeatedly and in just about every possible situation over the years anyway!!

I read somewhere on here a good analogy to explain faceblindness.
"If I took you to a cattery and showed you 12 tabby cats and told you their names and then took you back a week later could you remember which was which."...
I tried that one on my ever helpful boyfriend and it seemed to make an impact....

So this will be a whole new thing for me, actually explaining to people that I dont recognise them and why.
I will report back on how it goes!!