Sunday, September 30, 2012

Do I Know You? ~This Aspie's Experience with Face Blindness.

I can feel him casually glancing in my direction. I make a point to look away and not  make eye contact, because I don't feel like having polite conversation at the pool with strange men I don't know.  Eventually, we cross paths and he asks me how I am. I can tell by his demeanor that he's not a stranger. He is someone I've met before and should be acquainted with. I search the pool to see if I recognize his children. I'm looking for any clues that can help me here, but none come. I just make small talk and try to figure it out later. It turns out to be one of my daughter's friend's parents. I've spoken to him in the last couple of weeks. I should know who he is.

The above scenario is probably something that has happened to most people before at some point, but for me (and many others on the spectrum) it happens often. There is a phenomenon called face blindness or Prosopagnosia.  I am unsure if I fit the criteria for this diagnosis. I took the face blindness test of famous faces and scored 93%. That is above average. I have no trouble identifying faces of famous people, even those I have not seen in 20 some years. My memory is quite good in that way. However, when social interaction in everyday life is introduced to the scenario I seem to lose the ability to identify acquaintances.

As you can imagine, this is troublesome. If I run into someone, say at the store it is very likely that I will not recognize them. I live in a small town, so it is certain to happen often, just based on the statistics alone.  So, maybe you are one of the son's paras, the secretary at the school, or the bank teller, the principal that I've sat through 10+ IEP meetings with, or my neighbors.... I will walk past you as if I've never met you, unless you make the first move.  I'm certain that this doesn't help my social life, as I know that I come off as snobby. It has to be terribly confusing to others, especially the ones that I warmly chat with on a regular basis to suddenly find me oblivious to them in another environment.

I wonder if Beans has this issue, too. He always smells people upon greeting them.He reaches out and grabs your clothes, and hair and sniffs.  I think he may be trying to identify who you are by your scent.

If you took the test, feel free to leave your score in the comment section, as well as any experience you may have with this issue, either with yourself, or your ASD loved one.

21 comments:

  1. I'll have to come back and take the test but this is something I've seen with my son. I swear he doesn't recognize people he's met and it's not for a lack of trying. He also doesn't register their expressions or hear vocal inflections so it seems to make sense. Thank you for this!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Let me know what your score is.

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  2. I also got 93% on the test, but find myself struggling with real people. I think my issue is that I'm comfortable with looking into the face of a person who is on the TV or a movie, while in person, I don't do that. I find myself remembering a hair style or glasses or something I feel more comfortable with looking at. Really taking in a person's face is too intimate.

    My son, who's on the spectrum, never remembers names until he knows someone VERY well. This means hardly any of his classmates. He does better with recognizing people, but he will act familiar with people who don't know him. I think they probably look like someone he knows and he doesn't understand the cues to show he is mistaken.

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    1. I think it's the same with me. I am thinking that the whole paying attention to social info is probably at the core of ASD. I simply forget to look at people's faces. It's info that is usually very important to others, but my brain seems to see it as optional. I wonder if I made a conscious effort to look at faces while I am out in public if my issues with facial recognition would get better?

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  3. Have you seen the book "Who Are you Again?" I haven't read it yet, but the NPR article pops into my head every time I read about face blindness (which I think my son has). http://www.npr.org/2010/11/13/131267727/living-with-face-blindness-who-are-you-again

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    1. No, I haven't. That woman has had a tough life! I think I may not really have true face blindness. I have no issues recognizing people really familiar to me.

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  4. I got 90%. I can recognize many famous people because growing up my mom was a movie buff, later I was too. We watched movies all the time for downtime.

    I do this with people as well as with my own family members. I have done it to my sisters when I would go to the grocery store where they worked. I would walk right past them and they would say, "HEY!" or my name or something. I would look at them puzzled and after a few seconds I would realize it was them. (Sometimes it took longer and I would stand there just staring at them.)

    It happened many times. I really do this with people I do not have regular contact with. My family has gotten upset at me thinking that I have done it on purpose, or asked me why I was angry with them if I did not respond to them when I saw them. OOPS!

    I think that all my kids do this as well. I used to get very confused by me doing this and not understanding why my brain would get so fuzzy and confused feeling. In recent years, I attributed it to my sensory processing issues and now I just apologize to people and say things such as, "Oh, I am sorry I was just so focused on getting what I needed I didn't realize it was you." It has worked better than saying, "I did not know you face!" Ha ha ha

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    1. I wonder if it's due to facial recognition issues or if it about sensory processing? It seems I only focus on a very narrow field of vision at a time. To look at everything all around me would be too overwhelming.

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  5. I am unsure. I think I recognise people out of context quite easily. And I got 86% on the celebrity thing. So I don't think face blindness is a problem.

    A bit off topic - but I used to anxiously scan the people around me when I am out in public, fervently hoping that I won't see anybody I know. I hate encountering people in unexpected places. I have stopped doing that, I don't look at people that much any more. Less anxiety that way. The downside is that people come up to me now and surprise me - I hate that too.

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    1. I think I need to do that! I seem to not even think about it. It's like I'm on a mission when I'm out and about and people don't rank up very high on my 'important things to pay attention to' list.

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  6. I have trouble recognizing people if I meet them somewhere out of the ordinary, like running into a neighbor at the post office instead of while walking the dog around the neighborhood. More than once I've actually said to someone "oh, sorry, I didn't recognize you out of context." Which only makes the situation worse, because now not only have I failed to recognize someone I've known for years, but I also sound like a babbling idiot. :-)

    Also, I took the famous faces test a while back and was surprised to see how well I did. One odd thing I've always noticed is that I have an easier time recognizing male celebrities than female, but I have no idea why.

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    1. I think it might be due to males not really changing much about their appearance for years. Ladies have way more options in the style dept than men, ie hairstyle, color, make up, ect...

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  7. I didn't like that celebrity faces test! I thought it was too easy and didn't accurately reflect my face recognition difficulties. These are famous people that I have seen over and over and over again. Granted, I got an 80%, which is below average, I definitely would not score that high if they were people I knew or met in real life.

    I am constantly fretting because people talk to me (I know they know me because of their comments/questions) but for the life of me I don't know who they are! Many times they are people who should be VERY familiar to me--church members, the boy's teacher, etc.

    I'm glad I read this, I hope it is OK to mention your post in my upcoming blog post on Faceblindess. I was actually working on it when I came across this!

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    1. No go ahead and mention it wherever. I think we need more awareness of this out there.

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  8. I got in the lowest 2% the first time I took it. Later I got better scores, but I wan memorizing that particular photo, so that if you got another photo of the same person, I might not recognize them. I think I was going by the overall shape of the photo, since they were sort of "disembodied" and had hair removal. ;) My church once went SEVEN YEARS without getting a photo directory. It was NOT a good experience.

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    1. That would be hard! I haven't been to church in years, but I can only imagine trying to remember all those people. People wonder we get so tired from social activities!

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  9. Scored 19% on that test. Scored in the 9th percentile last time I was formally assessed in this area by a professional.

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    1. I'm curious as to what professionals do to test you?

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  10. I recall being hailed by a lady when my wife and I were at the movie theater. we chatted with her for a few minutes before the film started, and then we all took our seats. I asked my wife who it was - expecting it was one of her workmates - and was rather embarrassed when I was told it was my doctor. I'd been going to her regularly for a few years. In fact, I was in her diabetes drug trial. This meant I'd seen her, on the average, about monthly. Now, if she'd been wearing a white coat with needles in her hands....

    The uncomfortable thing is that this must be happening to me so much more than I know. I'm damaging relationships without even being aware of it.

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  11. I've taken that test and scored something ridiculously low.

    I'm bad enough with faces that if my boyfriend gets a haircut, I often can't recognize him. When my mother cut her hair short (to shoulder length) it took me a couple weeks until I was able to find her in public. I've been at a school dance before and seen someone wearing the exact same dress as my sister, and commented on it, only to be told it was in fact my sister.

    It's a problem.

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