A World Without Faces

In the article Forgetting Faces by Thomas Grueter, prosopagnosia is discussed in detail with relation to the brain; how certain damaged areas in the brain could result in this rare condition. The author himself suffers from this condition and this article accounts for his journey from discovering face blindness in himself to conducting extensive surveys and researches with hopes to shed more light to this unique condition. Meanwhile, the article The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat relates the experience of Dr. Sacks with a musically talented man who suffers from prosopagnosia. It details the prosopagnosic patient’s visual process and provides much insight into how people who suffer from a disorder of face perception go about their daily lives.

Prosopagnosia, a condition where a person’s ability to recognize faces is impaired is surprisingly unheard of even till this very day. It is shocking to learn that in the United States alone, six million people could be suffering from this devastating condition and yet do not realize it. Strange yet seemingly plausible. Prosopagnosia affects people’s lives to quite a significant level. Due to their inability to recognize faces at an instant, they are often embarrassed, resulting in a low self-esteem and fear of being out in the public. Prosopagnosics find it hard to cope with changes in their surroundings and therefore are indirectly forced to live a monotonous routine life. Adults have difficulty at work and a new environment frustrates them. Young kids tend to be clingier to their parents and may take a significant amount of time to learn in school. This disrupts their childhood on many levels as they could not identify faces with their personal feelings and may be left feeling confused. People with prosopagnosia might also feel slight emotional blindness due to their inability to detect changes in facial expressions which we often use to convey our emotions. In the second article, a young man of 32 who suffers from this condition had difficulties recognizing faces of his family members and even himself. However, from another perspective people with this condition learn to live with it and though their life may seem to revolve around a huge bubble of confusion, things turn out better and their lives become not too negatively affected on a daily basis as they grow up and become familiar with everything.

Those who are afflicted with prosopagnosia form their own personal ways and develop a unique pattern to recognize faces. Some might try their best to remember distinct facial features such as a prominent facial mole or excessive facial hair. They learn over time to identify a person from their hair; whether it is long or short and how they wear it. Prosopagnosics can recognize a person with long hair easily because it is not frequently changed but might see that person as a different individual if she were to pull her hair back into a ponytail. Others might learn to recognize a person by listening to their voice or observing their movements. When they live within a confined space with the same few people or go to a school where seats are all assigned after a certain period, eventually they learn to pick up things like where a person sits or how they sound like when they speak. A few others take special note on tiny details like how their teeth look like, the kind of shoes they wear and in the case of Macrae’s patient, by identifying conspicuous clothing on a person like a large hat. This could work relatively well as prosopagnosics have no difficulty recognizing abstract shapes or schematic diagrams.

If I were to put myself in the lives of millions of prosopagnosics I would feel somewhat crippled. I say this because I am not born with the condition but rather obtained it through a head trauma. Therefore having prosopagnosia will definitely feel strange to me. I will feel confused most of the time because not having the ability to recognize myself immediately when I stand in front of a mirror is just simply devastating. Because I have to spend a significant amount of time learning to identify faces and constantly deal with that issue everywhere I go, I can see myself unable to become adept at receiving emotions and might not even pick up some emotions. Facial expressions play an important role in communicating and if I am unable to differentiate them, I will find it hard to relate with people as I may not enjoy the emotions they convey. A huge portion of our lives is dedicated to emotions and not being able to enjoy emotions could result in withdrawal from social and personal happenings in my life. In addition to that, the inability to recognize my loved ones as well as myself initially may affect me on many levels which eventually lead to mild depression.

Prosopagnosia may cause my psychological health to deteriorate due to constant mistakes I make when meeting people, especially in public areas where a large crowd becomes a challenge to identify with. Humiliation and embarrassments from time to time will absolutely make me feel inferior to others and I will definitely fear meeting new people or even having a different lifestyle. This might affect me psychologically by making me become a less confident person, my professional life may not reach its highest potential and all these factors summed up together could undoubtedly turn my whole life into a huge mistake. I will always feel incomplete. A fish out of water is what I will be if I were to be afflicted with prosopagnosia.

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1 Response to “A World Without Faces”


  1. 1 Sook Peng March 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Hye Fiona! You should put the chat box in your blog la… Haha, well just to tell you that you are tagged by Sook Peng Obama. Pls reply to the tag. =)


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Miss Fiona

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