You all look the same: 1 out of 50 people will not recognize others (and may not know about it)

    Prosopagnosia, or facial blindness, is a facial perception disorder in which a person cannot recognize faces, but recognizes other objects, including animal faces, without any difficulty. People with this disease have to adapt and recognize others by voice, gait, hair style. Moreover, they themselves most often never heard of their diagnosis.

    Brad Pitt is one of the people suffering from prosopagnosia. A source

    The human brain is able to recognize the faces of loved ones, friends, colleagues even in very low-resolution photographs. The better we know a person, the worse the photo in which we recognize him can be worse. But this property is not available to people with prosopagnosia - a disorder in facial perception. They see the nose, mouth, eyebrow, chin, but the brain cannot compose a complete picture of these elements and correlate it with the information in memory about a particular person. This disease, first described in the 19th century, can interfere with the life of about 2% of the world's population. Another problem: not all doctors are familiar with this disorder, and it is most often not diagnosed. That is, people do not know that they have such an ailment.

    American neurologist Oliver Sachs published the book "The man who mistook his wife for a hat ”, in which he described cases of this disorder from his own medical practice. The name is not a joke or irony: “Having decided that the inspection was over, the professor began to look around for a hat. He held out his hand, grabbed his wife by the head and ... tried to raise her to put on himself. This man in front of my eyes took his wife for a hat! At the same time, the wife herself remained quite calm, as if she had long been accustomed to such things. ”

    The patient did not have any mental illness, but suffered from agnosia, in which he was not able to distinguish a leg from a shoe or a wife's head from a hat. The same patient recognized geometric shapes, and also guessed famous people by individual elements on caricatures - for example, Winston Churchill by his cigar, but could not distinguish the expression on the TV screen. The patient could guess the rose by smell, but at first he saw it as a "curved red shape with a green linear appendage."

    In this case, visual agnosiaextended not only to faces, but also to objects. With prosopagnosia, more often than not, only the face is perceived, and objects or animals are recognized without any problems. Already in 1871, this disorder was simply and accurately described by Lewis Carroll in the dialogue of Alice with Humpty Dumpty in the work “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. Since then, the unofficial name of the disease is “Humpty Dumpty Syndrome”:

    ““ Even if we meet, I still won’t recognize you, ”muttered Grumpy displeasedly and gave her one finger. “You look so much like all people!”
    “People are usually distinguished by their faces,” Alice remarked thoughtfully.
    “So I say,” Humpty Dumpty said. - All on one face: two eyes (and he twice poked his thumb in the air) ... in the middle is his nose, and underneath his mouth. Everyone is always the same! Now, if you had both eyes on one side and your mouth on your forehead, then I probably would have remembered you. ”

    The term "prosopagnosia" was first used in 1947 by the German neuropathologist Joachim Bodamer. He described three cases of the disease, one of which was associated with the wound of a 24-year-old man - he stopped recognizing friends, relatives and himself in the mirror. He focused on hearing and tactile sensations, as well as on gait, manners of movement and other features. Those suffering from this disorder have to adapt and look for different ways to identify people.

    The very fact of the existence of prosopagnosia has led to studies of human perception of the face. When we see another person, our brain performs several tasks, among which are the recognition of individual elements of the face, the ratio of information with the data in our memory about our friends and the search for a name, determining the gender of a person, his profession, and so on. With prosopagnosia, this pattern is violated.

    The causes of the disorder may be brain damage or illness, but there is an assumption that it is inherited. In 1976, a case was recorded when a 12-year-old girl was unable to recognize her classmates in school uniform. The girl’s mother also had difficulties with face recognition.

    Usually, it’s more difficult for people to recognize someone if their photo is upside down and there is nothing on it but their face.

    In the image below, getting to know people is much easier.

    In 2000, the Internet began to draw attention to the problems of prosopagnosis, and researchers were able to find hundreds of people with this ailment. In 2006, the first study revealed that 2.47% of the population has developing prosopagnosia, while another study in 2009 found that this indicator could be 2.9%. People, including complaining about the inability to distinguish the heroes of the films from each other.

    There is also a problem with diagnostics. People who do not greet colleagues, friends outside the usual environment, are considered arrogant, such behavior leads to conflicts, and most often they cannot explain it. A person himself can consider that he has memory problems, blame himself for inattention.

    “Everyone thinks that I’m an arrogant arrogant, because I pass by and don’t greet even good friends,” said Stepan Ghazaryan in an interview with Afisha . At the age of 15, he did not recognize his mother in the minibus, and at school he recognized classmates only by hairstyles and the places where they sit, and did not remember anyone from the parallel class. At the institute, this technique became difficult to crank out - everyone sat down where they wanted to. In his second year, he made a present not to the girl he liked, but to another “little brunette”. When, on the advice of a friend who read about this ailment, Stepan went to a neurologist, he became his first patient with such a diagnosis.

    Dr. Sarah Bate has been engaged in research in this area since 2010, as well as covering issues in society. Sarah Bate leads the research team at Bournemouth University, which developed the world's first standard for the early diagnosis of prosopagnosia . A checklist with a list of symptoms is also intended for parents: researchers are sure that people who have a disorder at an early age will have a chance to improve recognition skills during a period of high learning ability.

    According to your list of symptoms, you may have prosopagnosia if you:
    • Confuse characters in movies, TV shows and / or games.
    • Unable to identify people in photos (including celebrities, a person you know, or yourself).
    • Lost in a crowded place - on the playground, train station.
    • Difficulties arise in groups of people with the same external data - for example, when people around them wear the same shape, have the same age or gender.
    • When confronted with a person, ask general questions to try and determine who you are talking to.
    • Constantly avoid naming other people's names.
    • Do not imagine yourself to other people, do not introduce two people to each other.
    • You don’t recognize people when their hairstyle or hair color, voice, gait, clothes have changed.
    • Describe people using non-face information: “a man with a motorcycle helmet”).
    • You do not recognize familiar people, colleagues in an unusual environment.
    • You do not see friends on the street.
    • Easily recognize people in the expected environment - a colleague in the workplace.

    The checklist is available here . The scientific article was published on January 26, 2018 in the journal Nature (doi: 10.1038 / s41598-018-20089-7).

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