kaigou: under this playful boyish exterior beats the heart of a ruthless sadistic maniac (2 charming maniac)
[personal profile] kaigou
I recall doing a beta-read for [profile] difrancis and tripping over a sub-plot that involved two childhood friends meeting again as adults... and recognizing each other instantly. That, to me, seemed preposterous. Biiiig suspension of disbelief! And bigger for Di herself, when she said she's recognized (as adults) people she knew in second grade. Just. Could. Not. Comprehend.

Oi. I have trouble recognizing coworker faces if our paths cross outside of work, and don't even ask me about faces (or names) of classmates, excepting a handful of really close friends. I've even walked right past my own sister with no recognition at all, when she chopped hair short and bleached it to white. And sure as spit, don't ever call me and think I'll recognize your voice. I've gone blank when my own father calls, for crying out loud. I'm never able to identify who's calling if I don't have caller-ID or some other hint to clue me in.

In person, I rely on things like hair color, length, and style, which means abrupt and extreme hair-style changes will throw me, especially if you're not wearing frequently-worn items like a distinctive coat or pair of shoes. I've learned to look for distinctive gestures and mannerisms, even if that means waiting patiently until someone who I think I should know -- and who acts like they know me -- says or does something that brings the face into sharper focus.

CP sometimes snarks that "all you white people look alike", but to me, pretty much... everyone does look alike. Or maybe I should say: everyone looks different, yes, but everyone looks unfamiliar. I just plain can't recall faces, and I sure as hell can't recall them if they're out of context (ie coworker not at work) or it's been more than about a year (ie old classmate).

Does anyone else do this, or have any similar kind of failure of recognition? I've always wondered if it's just me, or if it's just that everyone else fakes the lack of recognition better than I do.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
michaelmjones: (Default)
From: [personal profile] michaelmjones
I'm horrible with faces and people. I can lose my own wife in a crowd of ten, given 15 seconds. Don't even ask me to remember who someone is if I haven't seen them in years. Heck, I can know someone in one context, and completely miss them if seen in another context (such as in the grocery store). And as for calling me on the phone without identifying yourself, well, it may take a while.

Names? Oh sure, I know names. I can go to a con and identify a great many people by the thing they wrote/edited/drew/etc years ago, but as far as knowing someone by their visual, I suck.

On the other hand, people seem to recognize -me- on sight, even after a decade or more, so clearly it's an individual thing. Probably has to do with artist vs writer, or left side vs right side, or one of those other distinctions.

(In a side note, the Captcha wants me to type "Barpoet ofFiore" which is -awesome-. Bar Poet of Fiore! What a great title. Or job.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
jetsam: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jetsam
Depends on the person, for me. Girls are easier than guys, mostly because the facial structure changes less. If a girl hadn't made any major changes (complete change of hair colour, say) then I'd say I had a reasonable chance, given time to work out why they looked familiar. With a guy, much less chance unless they recognised me first and I knew that I had to recognise them somehow.

Of course, I quite often see traces of people on facebook even if I haven't seen or indeed spoken to them in years, which ups the odds again.

For me, I'm ok with faces and much, much worse with names. So I'll recognise someone but be more 'I know you, but I haven't a clue who you are'.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Interestingly, I do well with people from way back when, but less so with people I've met in the last 10 or 20 years. I'm wondering if children remember better, or if those memories just stick longer. NOt a clue. But when I teach and students aren't in my classes, most of them I can't remember even ever teaching them. But then, what's weird, is that sometimes I"ll remember some of them totally. I have no idea what makes some stick and others don't. But I had a student that I had as a freshman 12 years ago, and any time I see him, I know exactly who he is, even though there was nothing at the time that made him more memorable than any other student. At least not that I was aware of.

Di (who can't sign in with the LJ moniker)

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
welfycat: A MS Paint drawing of me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] welfycat
Not just you. I am super terrible at recognizing people and have had many brief conversations with people who obviously knew me, but I had no idea who they were.

I still can't recognize half of my coworkers by sight, and hair (like it is for you) is a huge indicator for me. I hate it when people cut/dye their hair, because then I have to reremember them all over again.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
stinky_horowitz: Don't remember origins. Please tell me if you know. (Default)
From: [personal profile] stinky_horowitz
It sounds like you're the far side of a bell curve, to me. It's possibly because you're so literate, and became so at a very young age according to some studies cited here: http://cogsnews.ucsd.edu/?p=239 and in a better article here: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/11/literacy-takes-over-the-brain.ars

I've gotten much better at recognizing voices and faces in the past year thanks to becoming a pharmacy tech. I consciously worked at memorizing customers' names and faces, and now I often recognize people in town. So you could change, if you wanted to and were exposed to lots of people again and again.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
stinky_horowitz: Don't remember origins. Please tell me if you know. (Default)
From: [personal profile] stinky_horowitz
Yeah, after I posted that I realized I was in a pretty rare situation where I had reason to make people repeat their name to me over and over again, plus see the name written out in various forms. So, uh, yeah change is possible, just not realistic. Like, at all. *rueful grin*

Date: 3 Dec 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
From: [personal profile] cyphomandra
Ooh, this is fascinating (early & avid reader, hopeless at facial recognition). I can remember names much better if they're written down (yay name-tags!), but all too often I am staring at a face and knowing I know it, but either I can't remember the context or, if I get that, I can't get the name. I am particularly bad if I'm introduced verbally to two or more people, as I tend to match names within a group to people who "look like" those names, and my mental concept of this completely fails to match what they're actually called.

I do have a good memory for narrative, though, and once I get something to start me off I can remember stories that connect with people, even without their names; this helps in manga, actually, as particularly if there are large casts I will forget names but remember relationships.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
law_nerd: Our 1/2 Lab puppy stares intently off into space. (Default)
From: [personal profile] law_nerd
My mother called me a while back, all excited 'cause she'd just read an article that mentioned Prosopagnosia -- a.k.a. being bad at recognizing faces to the point where someone attaches a diagnosis name -- and she was thrilled to have a name to attach to what she'd thought was merely a personal failing. Apparently Prosopagnosia can be inherited ... don't have it myself, I got the "suck at remembering names" genes instead.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
dragovianknight: closeup of a green dragon (Default)
From: [personal profile] dragovianknight
Oh, I totally fail at recognizing people unless I know them well or they have some distinctive feature I can recall.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
dejla: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dejla
Actually, I can usually recognize people -- but I don't always remember their names. And I can usually recognize voices and put them with names.

But I've usually considered that an anomaly. A lot of people I know can't.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
The New Yorker had a feature about this very issue not too long ago (more than a week, more than a month, probably not more than six months -- actually, I think it was toward the end of August). The writer was one of their regular neurologist-writers (Oliver Sacks, maybe?), and he was discussing both his own extreme difficulties with face recognition and what we seem to know about the underlying neurology.

The consensus seems to be that it's a continuum, and that where you fall on that continuum is likely a matter of hardwiring. Some of us are rotten at it; some unfortunate few are so rotten at it as to be essentially face-blind; at the other end of the continuum you have the legendary politicians who never do forget a face, and who can and do recognize people they met once, forty years ago, the instant they lay eyes on them again. I'm bad enough at it to believe that some people simply see in a way that I can't -- it makes more sense to me than it would to believe that they're somehow paying attention in ways that I don't.

Anyway, it's an interesting piece, and probably goes into more detail on the issue than you would ever need.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
Interesting that you should mention the 'all you __ look alike' issue. As it happens, the reason I remember the rough date of the New Yorker article is that I had a summons for jury duty around the pub date, and was on a panel being questioned for possible service on a robbery case where one of the issues they were checking for was whether a potential juror might believe that a witness of one race was less likely to be able to accurately identify someone of another race than a witness of the same race would. And two days previously, I'd have told the judge that while I was aware of research showing the unreliability of eyewitness identification in general, I had no reason to think that the race of either witness or person allegedly witnessed would affect the degree of said unreliability.

But it wasn't two days earlier, and I'd seen the article, and I had to consider the possibility that indeed, a racial difference might make that ID even less reliable than it would otherwise be.

You raise a fascinating point about the possible implications of people beginning to find all faces somewhat unfamiliar-looking. I wonder, though, whether we wouldn't have some of the role currently filled by (normal people's) facial recognition skills simply occupied by other tools for physical recognition of familiar people? That is, I'm rotten at faces, but in practice a decent amount of the deficit is made up for by the fact that I do recognize people's ways of moving and of occupying space. I've recognized old friends across long stretches of airport concourse from the back on occasion, and I suspect that many other non-face-seeing people have done the same. Surely that would fill a lot of the same social role?

Date: 2 Dec 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
law_nerd: Our 1/2 Lab puppy stares intently off into space. (Default)
From: [personal profile] law_nerd
Yes, Oliver Sacks – the article itself is available to subscribers only, but there's podcast of an interview with him at: http://www.newyorker.com/online/2010/08/30/100830on_audio_sacks and apparently more on the topic in his most recent book http://www.oliversacks.com/books/the-minds-eye/

Date: 3 Dec 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
quillori: text: a mask tells us more than a face (comment: a mask tells us more than a fac)
From: [personal profile] quillori
Google suggests Oliver Sacks in the August 30 edition, so spot on there. I don't have a subscription but the abstract looks interesting - I'll have a look for it next time I'm at the library.

I'm bad enough at it to believe that some people simply see in a way that I can't

(I'm reminding myself firmly you don't dive, and that while I like mackerel sushi well enough, I wouldn't describe it as a favourite so much as merely the only reasonably appetising option if one is going to eat mackerel at all, so there are some differences between us.) I was always puzzled by accounts of criminals trying to disguise their appearance for fear of being caught by someone who recognised them from a picture: there is a reasonable chance I may fail to recognise someone I've known for years if they're in an unfamiliar context or if they've change their hairstyle, so the thought of recognising a complete stranger from a picture... I'm prepared to accept my tendency to forget names is due to inattention, and that it may well be I'm just not interested enough in random people to whom I'm introduced to bother remembering their names, but facial recognition is just something I'm very bad at, even if I'm making an effort.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
susanna: (Default)
From: [personal profile] susanna
It sometimes happens to me when I meet someone I don't know well out of the usual context. And sometimes a new hairstyle irritates me.

I have heard that Jane Goodall, the famous woman who did research on Gorillas (or were it chimpanzees) has the same problem.

Date: 2 Dec 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm not hopeless at recognizing faces (although I am bad at remembering the name to go with the face) but I am completely hopeless at any type of visual *recall*.

Show me something I've seen before, I'll likely recognize it. Ask me to visualize it two seconds after I've seen it and I can't. I might be able to give you visual features but only if I've noticed them and converted them into words or another sense (generally touch).

Do you know how many memory tricks, meditation exercises, figures of speech... involve the casual assumption that everyone can remember what things look like? Can visualize things?

It's been intensely frustrating at times- although at least my inability to visualize is sufficiently complete that I've never had to wonder if it's a genuine difference (when you can't see a circle in your mind's eye....)

On the positive side I have very good tactile recall and ability for 'tactilization' for want of a better word -I love being able to feel with my mind's skin.


Date: 2 Dec 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
thejeopardymaze: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thejeopardymaze
CP sometimes snarks that "all you white people look alike", but to me, pretty much... everyone does look alike. Or maybe I should say: everyone looks different, yes, but everyone looks unfamiliar. I just plain can't recall faces, and I sure as hell can't recall them if they're out of context (ie coworker not at work) or it's been more than about a year (ie old classmate).

I have problems like this alot, though not as bad as Prosopagnosia. There are certainly people who do stand out from the crowd, lots of them, but alas, they do not make the majority. Emotional memory sometimes helps, particularly if I have a grudge.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
themadpoker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] themadpoker
Oh man yeah I'm terrible with both faces and voices. It sucks because I've got a huge family most of whom I've only met a few times or talked to on the phone and whenever we meet they always remember me and I flounder trying to pretend I remember them. My brother has the same problem, we'd get so many lectures from our parents on it. :/ Honestly a person could very easily get away with pretending to know me because alot of the time I'll play along in a conversation hoping I'll remember who they are before it gets really obvious.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
quillori: man in a Carnival mask (theme: masks (carnival))
From: [personal profile] quillori
I'm in the same boat as you. If people act as though they know me, I assume they must be right, but very probably I have to navigate through an entire conversation with them with no idea at all who they are. I do learn specific faces in the end, if I know the person well enough for long enough - I don't think I'd fail to recognise a close relative or really good friend even with quite a drastic change in look, but there aren't all that many people in that category. More distant friends, acquaintances, colleagues, movie stars ... it's a mystery to me how everyone goes about recognising each other, because most of the time I haven't a clue who people are. I'm not that great at voice recognition either - it's very annoying when people ring up and just launch into conversation assuming I will know who they are, because I shan't.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] maire
I have excellent facial recognition in one way, but it's a bit quirky.

I know a woman who I met once at a party when she was 16 and I was 20. I next ran into her ten years later at a cafe. As per usual for me, I was completely sure of one thing: my opinion of her based on the last time we'd met.

No idea how I met her or what her name was, though. That's also usual for me.

Similarly, when I was 18, I remember meeting a guy from my primary school class. I hadn't seen him since we were 11. I knew at once that he was a nice guy and not that bright academically when it came to primary-school subjects. Not his name, though, despite having apparently been in a class with him from age 5 to 11.

I have real trouble with names. Often I can work out how I know people by using context clues in my opinion of them. If I think someone is very annoying in tutorials, for example, it's likely they were in one of my classes at university. Or if I think someone is an authority on editorial technique, then I've probably worked with them in publishing. Generally I can work from there.

I eventually tracked down how I knew the woman from the party by remembering that she'd really liked my boots and that I thought her clothing style was cool for a 16-year-old. That gave me the cue to recall that she was the party host's very young girlfriend (16 is legal in this country, but it's unusual for a 21-year-old to have a 16-year-old partner). I still had no idea about her name.

Many of my friends remember me spending the first few years of our friendships occasionally asking for reminders of their names.


You're certainly not alone with your particular recognition issue.

I have a friend who has a severe case of non-recognition-of-faces. If I see her in the street and greet her, I need to tell her who I am or drop clear cues into the conversation so she can recognise me. Yet I've known her for years, worked with her on an art exhibition, and am entirely sure, from her reactions, that she likes me. She's intelligent and articulate, but the little bit in my head that tells me what I think of people, and tells others what people's names are, just doesn't seem to be there at all.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 08:39 am (UTC)
windsorblue: (fanboys linus)
From: [personal profile] windsorblue
I usually recognize faces and have no clue about the names. I blame D-land - all those years of having a nametag to look at made me lazy.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
dancing_serpent: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dancing_serpent
Not just you, it's the same for me. It was even worse when I was younger and very embarrassing, too. I think I found better coping mechanisms now, for example let the other talk first and see if s/he recognises me. *g*

I read the comments and the linked articles and I'm fascinated and a bit relieved. Suddenly it all makes much more sense to me and I don't feel so stupid any more about some of the situations I was in.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
irrelevant: (I lie to Batman)
From: [personal profile] irrelevant
I'm very good with faces. I once recognized a guy I hadn't seen since kindergarten twenty years later when I was standing behind him in line at a grocery store.

Names, I suck at. Faces, sure, and even where I know a given face from, but a name to go with the face? Forget it.

I could halfway suspend disbelief for your friend's plot, because I could see *one* of the people recognizing the other; that kind of recognition is possible for people with a certain kind of recall; it's possibly genetic: my mom, my brother and I all have it. But it's not exactly a typical trait, and for two unrelated people who were friends and have just met up again after many years to have that kind of recall? That's a lot of coincidence. Or maybe a bad romance novel moment.

Date: 3 Dec 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
onthehill: Buffy & her vampires/Sookie & her vampires (vampires)
From: [personal profile] onthehill
I am AWFUL at remembering faces. The worst thing is for some reason people always remember me.
I was introduced to a woman last week, and I said "Oh yes, I've seen your face around for years, it's nice to finally meet properly." Her response was "We spent some long evenings together with X,Y & Z about 10 years ago - I always wondered why you never said hello..."
And I am completely bewildered. Totally struck dumb. I have NO KNOWLEDGE of these alleged good times with this person I supposedly spent hours conversing with.


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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