Face Blindness

I keep a picture of my regular masseuse on my cell phone because I have trouble recognizing her. Blogged about this (with the photo) in January. Checking it right before reaching the shop means I can recognize her immediately more than half the time. Not checking often means walking right past her. No, I don’t think all Asians look alike.

In college my girlfriend moved in with 3 new roommates at the beginning of the next school year. I couldn’t tell two of them apart because I’d never seen them together. At first they were amused, then angry because I kept up for too long what they thought was a bad joke. After about 2 weeks I finally saw both of them together and was able to tell them apart after that.

There are other examples, but you get the idea.

A geeky aggregator blog recently had a post on face blindness. Took the test. It was difficult. Scored a D.

Some tidbits from Wikipedia about Prosopagnosia, AKA face blindness:

“…face seems to function as an important identifying feature in memory, it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialize normally with others.”

I thought I just had a bad memory for the details of people’s lives. Usually took notes after interacting until I’d spent enough time with them that it was no longer necessary

“The inability to keep track of the identity of characters in movies is a common complaint.”

I pay close attention to each new character so I can associate the name with the face. Trying to do that on The Sopranos was hopeless.

It probably didn’t help that I was nearsighted and didn’t know it until fifth grade. Maybe I’d been better off if I hadn’t figured out that I could read the black board from the back of the class by looking through the small hole formed by curling up my index finger.

So, what’s the point of this post? While learning to be a pilot I encountered the belief that if one wasn’t fundamentally changed by the process then one wasn’t paying enough attention. Similarly, retiring and becoming an expat both provide frequent opportunities to look at one’s self and one’s world-view from new perspectives. Opening one’s mind can lead to adjusting the views of self and world. Glad I noticed.


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