Sunday, May 20, 2007

Face Blindness

This is the world's first (and to date only) book about face blindness. It has been published on the Internet so people in all lands can have access to it readily, and so it can be continuously updated.

In these pages, you will find information, much of which is not available anywhere else at this time. Until people with this rare condition began to meet each other on the Internet in mid-1996, assembling this kind of information would not have been possible. Even researchers who have had hopes of specializing in this condition have been frustrated by having seen only a handful of subjects over a lifetime. With the advent of the Internet, face blind people are coming together in heretofore unheard of numbers, and much is being learned with each passing month.

This document was first published as "Bill's Face Blindness Pages" in January, 1997, based on information learned in the fall of 1996. Since then, it has grown considerably, to become the document you will now see.

Let Me Introduce Myself

Hi! My name is Bill, I'm fifty-five years old, and I have long black curly hair and a mostly-white beard. I live in San Francisco. If you're like me, it helps a lot to remember what people have said if you have an image of them - all of them, not just the face - in your mind first. So with each chapter I've provided a photo. (Note: The photo you see is now five years old, but it will remain here for historical reasons.)

I was born with a condition that makes it difficult for me to recognize faces. There is a small part of the brain that is dedicated to that job, and though it is small, when it comes to recognizing faces, it is very very good. In me, that part doesn't work, making me blind to all but the most familiar of faces. To help you understand this, let me compare it to two conditions you are probably more familiar with.

People who are "tone deaf" are not deaf to tones. They can hear tones, they just can't tell them apart. People who are "color blind" can see things that are in color. They just can't tell colors apart. Similarly, I can see faces. I just can't tell them apart.

The main impact of this is, of course, that I find it much harder to recognize people than most people do. I have my ways, but they are slower and more tedious to use than the face method I lack.

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