Seeing in others when we can’t see ourselves

5th November 2016 by Judith Harvey

Seeing in others when we can’t see ourselves

I’m just not very good at faces. I didn’t give it any thought until 2010, when I read an article by Oliver Sacks, professor of neurology and author of The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Sachs struggled to recognise anybody – patients, colleagues, friends, his family. When he discovered that a brother had the same problem, he deduced that this was probably a genetic trait.

In 1947 a German neurologist described three cases of a specific form of facial agnosia and coined the term prosopagnosia. Autopsies of sufferers showed that they all have lesions in the right visual-association cortex, but until recently face-blindness continued to be put down to shyness, absent-mindedness, bad manners, and that catch-all for any problem with interpersonal relationships, Asperger’s Syndrome.

As always, for sufferers, receiving a diagnosis and knowing they are not alone make living with the condition a bit less stressful. And prosopagnosia is receiving more publicity. In 2011 consultant gastroenterologist David Fine wrote in the BMJ about the difficulties face-blindness causes him and the strategies he uses to reduce them. He manages, with some difficulty, on a day-to-day basis but networking at meetings is a near-impossible task and he feels that prosopagnosia has hampered his career. There are now blogs, discussion groups and articles in the press.

Read more

No bank details needed.

Join free trial


Already a member? Login to view this content.


"I regret not having joined earlier!!!"

Dr Maria Tome

See the full list of features within our NASGP membership plans