Friday, July 27, 2007

The Faceblind View: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Andrea, over at Faceblind View (movie and television reviews from a prosopagnosic perspective) just posted her review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Its the latest in the Harry Potter movie series.

The Faceblind View: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (in IMax 3D!): "Being such a huge Harry Potter fan, it's hard for me to tell how easy the characters of the latest installment would be to tell apart. I mean, I've read this book twice, I've seen all the other movies and read the books, and therefore I know what's going to happen. I know who should be doing what.

If this describes you too, you won't have any trouble with this movie. The one time I had even a speck of face trouble was a moment when Hermione was standing next to Harry in the room of requirement and she had her bushy hair pulled back. I didn't realize it was her until she talked. But it wasn't important to the plot."

Strangely enough, the one spot I remember having trouble identifying someone in the movie was nearly the same as the one Andrea had trouble with. Hermione was standing in the room of requirements, facing another student who was supposed to practice casting a spell on her. She had been in the room in a few different shots, but when I suddenly saw her alone standing opposite the other student, I didn't recognize that it was her. I asked G "who is that girl?". I did not realize why at the time, but I guess it must have been the hair?

Follow the link to Faceblind View to read the great description of all the characters, plus a review of the 3-D effects available when you see The Order of the Phoenix at an IMax theater. I especially recommend PA's read it before seeing the movie if they have not read the book.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Face to Face Networking Takes On a Whole New Meaning

This post by Andrea gives insight into some of the extra effort a prosopagnosic goes through at work trying to avoid social missteps.

Social Captioning « Andrea’s Buzzing About:

The primary problem of being faceblind is not only do I not recognise people — rather, I have to consciously identify them — but that my abilities to do so fade over time, so people whom I used to be able to figure out will become strangers again for lack of regular contact. The secondary, and somewhat insidious part of being faceblind is that it plays hell with “networking”. I never know as many of my coworkers or peers when I am around them, and cannot keep track of them later on as useful contacts.

When I interview for jobs, talk to people at conferences, or attend meetings it is profoundly difficult for me to remember with whom I spoke, even though I write down names and titles. I’ve tried taking down covert notes, like “Mr M: mustache, coördinates program, office 2nd floor”. But then later on I find that knowing Mr M has a mustache isn’t useful, because later on I will be around two more mustached guys of the same “type” who are all in the same environment, and that I never talk with Mr M in his office on the 2nd floor. I will later come to know Mr M by the particular shape of his balding pate and the way he wears his mobile phone on his belt, but when I am taking those notes, those are not the features that are first noticeable.

There’s also a Ms B at the meeting, but I won’t know until a month later that she was the one whom I really needed to “map” out as a contact. Yet another month more after that realisation, I will finally ascertain that she was one of the people with whom I chatted at that initial meeting. Making that important connection required a lot of careful analysis, drawing connections and ruling out confounds between dissimilar data sets, as though I am playing a particularly difficult level of Sudoku involving personnel instead of numbers. In a Sudoku game, there’s always a ninth that has just a couple of numbers provided, so it’s the square with the numbers that are filled in last, through pains-taking analyses of extensive subsets of if-then algorithms.

Its a very thoughtful post and the puzzle analogy is spot on. I also feel like I am always trying to fit together pieces of a puzzle.

Are You Prosopagnosic? A list of questions to help you tell.

This is a link from a story in the Boston Globe a year ago. It is interesting to read the questions that have been developed to help recognize if someone is prosopagnosic. Kind of an initial screening you can try on yourself. Would you have trouble answering these questions affirmatively?

Identifying face-blindness - The Boston Globe:
June 14, 2006

Some questions used to determine whether someone may have prosopagnosia:

Would you have problems finding your party's table in a restaurant?

Would you recognize a famous actor or politician, if you saw him or her unexpectedly in the street or in a restaurant?

If somebody looked into your office, asked a questions and left, would you be able to recognize him or her some minutes later in a group of people?

At larger functions or parties, do you talk to someone for a couple of minutes and then find you can't remember his or her face a few minutes later?

Picture yourself in mall or at the airport: If someone you don't recognize greets you and starts talking to you in a very familiar way, what do you do? (Typical answer from someone who has trouble recognizing faces: I would try to find out from his or her voice and from the subjects discussed, who he or she might be.)

SOURCE: Thomas Grüter

Follow the link for an additional list of resources.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"2 Crabs" Blogger Realizes He Is Faceblind

Another one! Found this blogger talking about his realization that he is probably prosopagnosic after viewing Good Morning America's Pa piece. Many people know that something is not right with them, but seeing a story like this helps them finally put a name to it. Judging from the way Mr. Crabs describes his problem, it sounds like he definitely is prosopagnosic.

2 Crabs: The Absent-Minded Expat

Although I've always had a pretty decent memory, I've never been good at recognizing or remembering names and faces. I'm a complete blank. Everyone looks exactly the same to me. I'm a complete blank with faces, not a good thing when you're a journalist. Occasionally, somebody will come up to me on the street and say "Oh, hello Mr. Crab!" and launch into a conversation, while I'm standing there smiling, listening, and thinking to myself, "Who the HELL is this person!?!?" When I'm with Mrs. Crab, it's a bit easier because I can flash her a silent, inquisitive look as if to say, "Throw me a bone -- who is this and how do we know him/her?," at which point she'll insert a clue or two into the next sentence.

Turns out there is actually a medical condition for this problem with the really original name of " Faceblindness." The scientific name is prosopagnosia. I think I may have a less severe version of this memory impairment. So now I have a scientific excuse for not remembering you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Faceblindness: Video From Good Morning America

Here is the link to the video that was on American television this morning. It was seen on ABC's Good Morning America.

ABC News: Faceblindness: Forgetting Familiar Faces: "How would you feel if your wife or mother didn't recognize you across a crowded room?

For Elaine Scheib's family, it was a reality. Scheib, who has perfectly normal vision, could not recognize the face of her husband, Bill, until they had dated for a year, and it took four years before she memorized her children's faces.

Scheib is part of the 2 percent of the population that suffers from a condition called prosopagnosia, also known as faceblindness, according to Harvard University professor Ken Nakayama, who has studied faceblindness extensively.

People with the disorder, which can lead to severe social problems, lack sufficient wiring in the part of the brain that recognizes faces. For doctors, it provides insight into how the brain functions."

First the Wall Street Journal this week, and now this. I am so happy! I find it very difficult to tell people I have this, because it requires so much explaining, and often people don't think its real. The more people know about it, the lower the barrier to being able to discuss it with them.

ABC News: Meet a Family Whose Members Don't Recognize One Another

ABC News: Meet a Family Whose Members Don't Recognize One Another: "Some people never forget a face.
But for 40 years, Sellers, a college English professor, has never been able to remember one. Even a face she's known since birth.

'I wouldn't be able to recognize my mother out of context if she was walking down the street. And then, along with that, I mistake people for her,' Sellers said."

I have had this same problem, not with my mother (I usually hear her coming:), but with my sister. It is the most disorienting, disconcerting feeling in the world. I can usually recognize my husband G, but I have walked by him enough times to not take it for granted. Thankfully, he often wears a baseball cap, so I just have to memorize which one he is wearing on any given day.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

PA Article in Wall Street Journal

Mysteries of the 'Faceblind' Could Illuminate the Brain - PAGE ONE

YES! That's Page One! I went to the WSJ online and there was the print article in the "Page One" section.
Strange Deficit Impairs
Ability to Recognize

July 5, 2007; Page A1

What's New: Research into 'faceblindness' is examining links to brain functions, as well as improved ways to test for the condition.
Coping: Patients say they compensate by recognizing people by their speech, hair or walking gait.
Treatment Possibilities: Exercises used with autistic children are now being tested with prosopagnosia.

This is so exciting for me because the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is a U.S. based paper that we and many of our friends subscribe to. I find that it is so much easier to tell someone I have PA if they have already heard about it. There is a bit less skepticism and less explaining to do.

I realized this last week when a friend from the dog park casually revealed that he had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). He said it in passing, expecting not to have to explain it to me, since there has been so much publicity about it in the last 10 years that most people have a good idea of what it is.

I found myself envious of him for having the wider known neurological condition.

Drawing A Blank Face - Video

Wall Street Journal Video

Here is a video by WSJ reporter Heather Won Tesoriero:

"Drawing a Blank Face
A London artist on Prosopagnosia, also know as "Face Blindness," and the difficulty in not recognizing friends and family. "

Also featured in the video is U.C. London- based Brad Duchaine, one of the leading researchers in prosopagnosia. He is the one who tested me also.

One more bit of information out there for people to help people understand prosopagnosia.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Prosopagnosia in Age Determination?

In an article on about a new law in Tennessee that requires anyone who wants to buy alcohol to be carded, regardless of age, because of the lack of ability of clerks to accurately determine age. There is mention of prosopagnosia in the final paragraph.

Can a bartender tell if you're underage? - By Torie Bosch - Slate Magazine: "The new law might be helpful for any Tennessean store clerks suffering from a disorder called prosopagnosia, or 'face blindness.' Prosopagnosia, which is sometimes associated with a stroke, autism, brain damage, or other neurological disorder, can limit an individual's ability to estimate age at all."

The frustrating thing is that the term prosopagnosia is introduced, but not explained. It is only linked to the lack of ability to estimate age, which is more a possible symptom of not being able to recognize/remember faces in general, and certainly not attributable to prosopagnosics in general. It also does not mention it can be developmental, as well as acquired through brain trauma.