pandora_parrot: (Default)
I feel as though I've reached the point where I feel like I've resolved some of the turmoil I've experienced over the last few months over finding out that I had CAPD. I feel as though I've integrated this into my self-image, have adjusted my behaviors to better manage my issues, and am now moving on...

A lot of my anxiety and difficulty in integrating this knowledge into myself revolves around the fact that this condition has been with me since birth, but I've never understood it.

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (Default)
Got a request for information about being faceblind today. Thought I'd post my response to the person's questions:

1: When you see a person you've never met before, do you see their face at all or is it just a blur? For example, if someone had say a scar or a facial piercing or bright blue eyes, would you be able to notice them?

Prosopagnosia, or faceblindness, isn't really about not being able to see things. I can see people's faces just fine. I can see a scar or facial piercing or blue eyes or anything. I see it all, and I can even memorize facts about such a face if I need to!

The best description that I've ever come up with for faceblindness is that it is this: There is a special region of the brain that is optimized for doing pattern recognition on faces. It is able to quickly and subconsciously evaluate all of the characteristics of a face and compare it against your memories of all the people you've ever met. For a person like myself, with faceblindness, we don't have this sort of "hardware optimization." We have to do everything in "software," ie. We have to use other parts of our brain to figure out who someone is.

Since these other parts of our brain aren't so optimized, they're not nearly as good. They work slowly, miss a lot of things, and are easily fooled. A close friend only has to put on unusual clothing, cut their hair, etc. to make it completely impossible for me to recognize them, despite the fact that I know them very well. For people I don't know as well, it takes far less for me to be unable to recognize them. Something as simple as a shift in mood, a hair style or color change, or something like that is enough to make someone completely unrecognizable to me.

Perhaps another way to look at it is that I can see all of these facial characteristics just fine. They just don't mean anything special to me, and even the closest people can look like complete strangers to me fairly easily.



2: How do you distinguish between people? Can you recognize voices or hair or skin color or anything?


For me, the big three characteristics that I use to identify people are context, personality, and large scale body characteristics.

So if I run into a short asian guy at work that's really exciteable, I'll know that's Gerry. If I run into a tall happy guy that wears bright colors and is always smiling, that's Bob. If I'm going on a date and a large bearded man comes up seeming to be laughing at the world, that's my boyfriend.

Context is huge. Take away context, and I'll generally completely lose my ability to recognize someone. A guy once tapped me on the shoulder at a supermarket and asked me if I needed help. It was actually a good friend of mine playing a joke on me, but because I didn't expect to see him, I didn't recognize him and thought he was genuinely an employee of the store.

Personality is also huge. So huge to me, that when a person is in a different mood, I can instantly tell. I'm very sensitive to changes in mood, and if someone came to me acting *very* different than normal, I'd run a chance of being unable to recognize them. Personality also influences the way people move, and I've become very adept at recognize people simply by the way they walk, swing their hands, play with their hair, and stuff like that.

And large-scale body characteristics. Stuff like long hair or short hair. Dark hair or light hair. Tall or short. Fat or skinny. Dark skin or light skin. Stuff like that. I'm not good at recognizing people in the middle, though, just on the extremes. Someone with average hair length, medium brown color, average height, average build, and light brown skin will be almost impossible for me to recognize, even after knowing them for a while. But make them pale and fat with short hair, or black, tall and skinny with long dark hair, and suddenly I find them very easy to recognize.

3: Do faces become more familiar the more you see them?


Not really. I become more adept at recognizing people's personalities in those faces though. I start to recognize the smiling bald guy that has a little smirk on his face, or the constantly depressed short woman. Stuff like that. Our brains aren't optimized to memorize these characteristics about people, so it takes considerably longer to learn stuff like this than it would for a normal person to recognize someone else. But over time, prosopagnosiacs learn to recognize people by various means. Just not by their face.

4: Were you born with your condition? If so, when did you realize that you had it?


As far as I know, yes, I was born with it. I realized I had it in college after a friend lead me to the "face blindness and stones" webpage. http://web.archive.org/web/20090525034533/http://www.prosopagnosia.com/main/stones/index.asp

I read that site and went "Yes! Holy shit! THAT is why I have so much trouble recognizing people and remembering faces!" It was an eye opening moment. I had started to suspect that something was different about me in high school, though, and recognized that I had more difficulty remembering faces than most people.

5: Lastly, (this one is kind of personal) how did/does faceblindness affect your relationships with others and/or your view of yourself, if at all?

Bill Choisser's online book goes into this in some detail: http://www.choisser.com/faceblind/

For myself, it has the strongest tendency to affect my ability to connect with people. It's fairly often that I find myself sabotaging potential relationships, both personal and professional, when I hit that inevitable moment of, "I'm sorry, who are you again?"

People are so used to being recognized, that they automatically assume that if you don't recognize them, you don't care about them. I've seen it so many times, my heart tears to even think about it. Imagine lovers, friends, and others being turned away when you looked and them and didn't know who they were. It's horrible, and it makes for a very lonely childhood. When you don't recognize the playground friend you made the day before, it makes it hard to makes friends at all.

As for view of myself? Not really. I guess I don't care about makeup as much as most women, since it makes my face look so very very different that it can freak me out. But that's pretty common amongst people with this condition.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I was in the grocery store near my new home the other day, and a store clerk walked up to me and cheerfully asked "Is there anything I can help you with Ma'am?" I, of course, indicated that I was fine and went back to what I was doing. I really hate it when store clerks try to help you.

But then, this store clerk frowned and said, "Joyce, it's me!"

Now that's frustrating. This must be someone that I know. I turned and looked at the person, dumbfounded. His face fell, he was crestfallen that I didn't recognize him.

*CRAP* I hate it when this happens. My brain started to race through all of the people that he could be, trying to place him and figure out who he was. How do I know him? And then I remembered my new strategy for dealing with this

"Oh! I'm faceblind! I can't recognize who you are."

He slapped his forehead with his palm and immediately brightened up. "Oh! Of course! I forgot that you have that faceblind stuff. It's me, [livejournal.com profile] vlad_badger!"

I squeaked in surprise and hugged him.

Of course, it still took me a bit to place him. He didn't immediately give me his LJ name, but first gave his name as Vlad. My brain started to pull up information about him, but it was slow to do so. The way I store information about people is weird, due to not knowing who most people are most of the time. I knew him by his LJ name, not his real name, so it wasn't until I got his LJ name that I knew exactly who he was.

In any case, just another day in the life of this prosopagnosiac.
pandora_parrot: (aspie)
So, I run around a bunch of people that have rampant degrees of self-diagnosis of various psychological conditions. It's a behavior that some criticize severely, while others think it's part of a person's right to self-identity. I myself do this to some degree and think it very useful a lot of the time. However, I think this needs to be done with care, as it can lead to easy mis-diagnosis, excuses for bad behavior, and similar things.

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I recently went to visit Dr. Nathan Witthoft, an individual working in the Stanford Vision and Perception Neuroscience Lab, who is doing research on individuals that have prosopagnosia. I had a very good time speaking with him and taking part in his tests. It was really neat to actually have someone test my facial perception and show me how I fared compared with people that are more neurotypical. I'm really curious to see what he comes up with in his research.

Anyways, he's looking for more volunteers to come in and take some of his tests, so I thought I'd pass along the information, as he is a nice guy doing legit research in this field.

Here's a description of what he's doing that he sent me:
" I work in a visual neuroscience lab that studies high level vision using psychophysics and fMRI. We have an ongoing project studying people with congenital prosopagnosia. Generally speaking people with CP have normal vision and normal cognition but extraordinary difficulty recognizing people from their faces. This difficulty is lifelong, though it does take some people a while to realize that there face recognition is not as good as most other people. The experiments are a number of psychophysical tasks which we use to try to understand the nature of the problem and also several brain imaging experiments including fMRI and DTI (mapping the white matter pathways in the brain). We do pay for subjects' time, though the amount is limited by the IRB, generally 15$/hour for the behavioral studies and 30$/hour for the imaging. Let me know if the description sounds like you and you are interested in participating. If you are not sure if you fall into this group or not, we have our own set of tests that are fairly good at
picking out people with real difficulties."

The lab's website is here: http://vpnl.stanford.edu/

If you have any interest in working with him, his email address is witthoft@stanford.edu. I think he's looking for locals, since he wants people to come into his office to do the tests, but if you know anyone that might be interested, let them know.
pandora_parrot: (victory)
So, I gave a little talk on prosopagnosia today to my coworkers.

I hit all the usual points. Talked about how I can't follow the plot of movies. How I can't remember my mother's face. You know... All of the usual things I mention.

And people really liked it! Take a look at this email!

Dear Joyce,

I wanted to thank you for your presentation today. Not only did it clear up the reason why you did seem not to know me after I met you a couple times, but I think it also educated everyone on something important that people don't usually think twice about. The next time I see you, I'll be sure to introduce myself again! I'm pretty short, with long curly-ish brown hair.


A few others also came up to me and told me that they experience this sort of thing as well! And others are now identifying themselves whenever they come near me. Exciting!
pandora_parrot: (work)
When I was up in Canada, I ran into a whole bunch of issues with trying to recognize my co-workers up there. It was a nightmare, and I was constantly explaining my face-blindness to people. While I was there, one of the people I explained it to, who I thought was a co-worker from up there, turned out to be a coworker that works right in the office next to mine down here in Sunnyvale! He was really glad to find out about my face-blindness, as he thought that I just didn't like him or something. Apparently, every time I met him, I acted like it was the first time we had ever met. He thought that maybe I was shy, but my personality at other times indicated that I wasn't.

So, in response to that, I've talked to HR and have the go ahead to give a little presentation on Prosopagnosia to my office mates during one of our regular Wednesday company lunches.

Here's a rough outline of what I want to do:
1) Start by explaining that I'm there to talk about a condition that I have that sometimes makes it difficult for me to relate to my coworkers, and after discussion, HR and I decided that I should make a presentation on it.
2) Go into some discussion of face blindness, what it is, and how I've experienced it. Basically, give the bare facts of what it is.
3) Give some anecdotal stories about situations I've encountered and how being face blind affects me, to get them to understand the scope of what it means to have face blindness.
4) Show the Prosopagnosia and stones page. Maybe just show the page, maybe bring in some rocks and make it a bit more visual...
5) Talk about ways that people can help me out. Now, this isn't something I've given a lot of thought to, but over the past two years, I've worked out a few ways that people can help me figure out who they are.
6) Open it up for questions.

And then some other notes:
  • I probably want to point out that it's not that I can never recognize people, but that it takes me longer and I use different cues than other people.
  • One thing some coworkers have done to help me out is identify themself whenever they come near me, until I finally figure out how to recognize them.
  • If you can recognize someone from the back, I can usually recognize them.
  • Talk about my situations with coworkers, for SURE.
  • This isn't like not being able to remember names. Even if you don't know someone's name, you still know who you're talking to. I don't.
  • Confusing two people who have the same glasses.


Do you have any thoughts or advice? I'm likely going to be doing this next Wednesday.
pandora_parrot: (Default)
And here's why!

Expertise for cars and birds recruits brain areas involved in face recognition.

This is an interesting addendum to the comment I made recently where I mentioned that I can't recognize cars, either. And here's why. :)

Face Blind

Oct. 9th, 2007 05:08 pm
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I have a condition known as Prosopagnosia, or face blindness. It's a really interesting condition that makes it very difficult for me to tell people apart. What is it like to be face blind?

Read more... )
pandora_parrot: (Default)
I hate it when shows expect you to recognize someone...

Like when you meet Desmond in Lost. They show him in Jack's flashbacks, while carefully hiding his face in the present. Then they do this big dramatic reveal at the end, finally showing his face.

To which I respond... Okay... I feel like I'm supposed to recognize this guy... But who is he again? I hate that. It irritates the hell out of me. I just feel lost and confused, when everyone else is like, "OMG! It's him!"

*Sighs*

That's why I hated this show the first several times I tried watching it. It wasn't until I watched the last few 3rd season episodes and was able to ask people who was who that I finally could recognize the characters.

But yeah... I hate it when shows do the dramatic reveal like that. It just doesn't help me. *sighs*

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