Confusing Faces

Confusing Faces

I saw a tumblr post that confused me. Us Aspies are notroiously bad at reading faces, and this photo was giving me very mixed vibes,

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my aesthetic is alex danvers looking like she wanted to throttle mon-el for havign the audacity to even breathe in the same airspace as her when he spoke to her

The face does seem a little off to me, but not in any way I can define. It’s more like the camera caught her at an awkward angle.

Otherwise, she’s smiling. Her girlfriend next to her is smiling.

I don’t understand.

I think half of the problem is that no only am I bad at reading facial expressions, is that I’m pretty sure I also have a touch of mild Prosopagnosia (a.k.a. Face blindness).

So what is that, precisely?

Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is a cognitive disorder of face perception in which the ability to recognize familiar faces, including one’s own face (self-recognition), is impaired, while other aspects of visual processing (e.g., object discrimination) and intellectual functioning (e.g., decision making) remain intact.

Quote source

So what does that mean for me?

Essentially it just means I’m bad with faces (that’s where “touch of” and “mild” comes in). I can physically see a face when I look at you but the moment you leave I can no longer accurately imagine or describe what you look like. If it was the first time I met you I have literally no recollection of what you look like. None. Unless you had a massive distinguishing feature, like you were missing a nose or something.

Those I’ve met several times do get stuck in my brain eventually. I do remember what my mother and husband look like, for example, but if they’re not in the room I still take several seconds to bring a picture to the surface of my mind.

Those I know well I am capable of recognising in a photo, or when they walk into a room, but if we’ve only met once or twice (even if it was yesterday, even if it was an hour ago) I  am extremely unlikely to be able to place you.

As a result I’ve got very good (I think) at the whole “nod, smile, non-committal answer thing until you say something that allows me to place you).

Context is also important. I’m a lot better at placing people if I always see them in a particular place (work, social clubs) and seeing them outside of that might just be enough to throw them off.

Although saying that, there was one case of two siblings (not twins, just looked extremely similar) that I honestly thought were only one person for almost two years, until they both greeted me within half an hour of each other and my brain flagged that as a little strange. Turns out one of them wears glasses. (For the record I’m also bad at remembering names, and their names are phonetically similar, so that went unnoticed as well.)

They dressed similar, had similar voices, similar facial structure, similar hair colour… Once I realised there was two of them I would have believed them to be twins.

Oh, and as for the “including one’s own self” part? Yeah, I frequently get startled by my own reflection in the mirror. I don’t look in mirrors very often, so there’s always just this…. moment, where I’m like “who the fuuuu-?” but by now I recognise that reaction and twig it’s me.

I first came across this condition in a comedy article at cracked.com. It’s a good website. Obviously you can’t use it for scientific papers or anything, but it does a lot of personal accounts about a variety of conditions/careers/situations in very accessible language. (They’ve covered Autism a few times, both on their own and as part of other articles.)

I don’t have face-blindness as bad as the lady in that article does, but there was enough there that I recognised to make me stop and think.

Now I don’t have it bad enough that I’ll ever bother getting tested for it (if there even is a test) but it just bad enough that it makes life just a little bit harder for me.

I believe there is some evidence that face-blindness occurs at a higher rate in Autistic people, but I don’t think it’s definitely confirmed yet. As with everything else, further research is needed.

This has all be from my own personal viewpoint (you’ll notice there were fewer links than last time) so don’t take any of this as gospel. This is just my personal experience.

Here’s a final interesting fact to sign off with: Mirrored-self misidentification is an actual condition in which you genuinely believe the person is the mirror is not you. Sometimes you think it’s a relative, sometimes you think it’s a stranger. People have called the police whilst under this belief because they thought someone had broken into their apartment. There was even a CSI episode on it (I can’t remember which version of CSI though).

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