Face blindness: difficulty recognizing faces more common than expected

Face blindness difficulty recognizing faces more common than expected

  • News
  • Published on

    Reading 2 mins.

    Do you know prosopagnosia? When it touches a person, this disorder is characterized by an inability to recognize a face, sometimes even his own in a photo. According to the conclusions of a recent study on the subject, it is much more widespread than we think.

    Since French actor Thierry Lhermitte and American actor Brad Pitt admitted to suffering from prosopagnosia, this disorder is no longer unknown to the general public. Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is the difficulty a person has in recognizing a face.

    This disorder can be caused by brain damage to the occipital or temporal regions, called acquired prosopagnosia, or can also be a lifelong condition caused by genetic or developmental abnormalities, called developmental prosopagnosia.

    We thought prosopagnosia was fairly infrequent, yet according to the results of a study, this disorder affects many more people than we think.

    More than 3% of the population affected?

    For this work, scientists from Harvard Medical School brought together 3,341 volunteers and questioned them about their daily difficulties in recognizing faces. For this, the participants had to answer various questions but also pass tests.

    Of all the volunteers, 31 truly suffered from severe prosopagnosia and 72 presented a mild form of the disorder. A total of 130 people out of a cohort of 3,341 volunteers, or 3.08% of them. A result higher than the official figures, which rely on an estimate of 2 to 2.5% of the population affected by this disorder.

    A disability more common than you think

    These results, published in the journal Cortex, show that prosopagnosia affects many more people than we think. According to experts, the tests usually offered are too selective, which would effectively exclude many people affected by this disability.

    The majority of researchers have used diagnostic criteria that are too strict, and many people with significant problems with facial recognition in daily life have been mistakenly told that they do not have prosopagnosia.says Joseph DeGutis, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

    Broadening the diagnosis is important because knowing that you have real objective evidence of prosopagnosia, even a mild form, can help you take steps to reduce its negative impacts on daily life, such as talking to co-workers or seek treatment” he concludes.