By Jason Smith, OD MS

"IF YOU LOOKED AT THESE TWO PICTURES BELOW, would you be able to recognize the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln? This black and white picture on the left should make visual sense to us in that he is an older man with a beard. We recognize his eyes, the ears, the receding hair line, his older age, the shape of his mouth, and his elongated head. We “see” this picture, we process this information, we draw conclusions about the picture, and we may even have memories about this picture and what it may mean to us personally as well as historically.


Do you remember seeing Lincoln’s picture when it was hung on the wall in your classroom? Did you see this picture in a museum? Do you remember President Lincoln because his picture is on the face of the five dollar bill? Do you remember seeing his picture in U.S. history books and anytime the Civil War is mentioned? His face is familiar to most of us. What about the picture to the right? This is the same picture, except it is upside down.

On March 18, 2012, CBS and 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl narrated a segment titled “Face Blindness: When Everyone Is a Stranger.” The term “prosopagnosia” is also used to describe face blindness. According to Wikipedia, “prosopagnosia” is Greek; "prosopon" is face and "agnosia" is not knowing. This is a disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact.

Bradley Duchaine is an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College who is familiar with this problem. He compares what these people see to looking at a picture upside down. The term originally referred to a condition following acute brain damage. However, a congenital form of the disorder has been proposed which may be inherited by about 2.5% of the population. Face blindness was first recognized in the 1940’s when soldiers who had suffered head injuries were now unable to recognize faces. It was not named until the term prosopagnosia was first used in 1947 by Joachim Bodamer, a German neurologist. He described three cases, including a 24-year-old man who suffered a bullet wound to the head and lost his ability to recognize his friends, family, and even his own face.

The Human Brain

Astonishingly, most doctors have never heard of Face Blindness.

It is estimated that 1 in 50 people may suffer from face blindness. (See video.) The specific brain area usually associated with face blindness is the fusiform gyrus located in the temporal lobe of the human brain. Some also use the term “prosophenosia,” which refers to the inability to recognize faces following extensive damage of both occipital and temporal lobes of the brain. As Eye Care Professionals, the last word that we want to hear is “blindness.” We try to prevent blindness or to reduce its negative effects by providing optical aids, prescribing medications, and referring to specialists for medical intervention when necessary.

Blindness is defined as no light perception, the inability to see anything, or amaurosis. The Dictionary of Visual Science has three pages of different forms of blindness including absolute, color, flash, night, organic, psychic, and snow, but there is no mention of facial blindness. People with the problem of face blindness can see so using the term blindness to describe this condition is misleading. The problem that exists is that they are unable to recognize faces that should be familiar to them, but are not. Their vision is fine, but they are unable to process what they see into a recognizable form.

For example, people with face blindness cannot recognize their own face, as well as the face of a daughter, son, or spouse. Famous movie actors or actresses that most of us can recognize such as Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, or George Clooney cannot be named. Famous president’s such as Washington or Lincoln would be a total mystery. You or I could recognize familiar faces even if this same person changed their hair color, hair style, or placed a hat on their head. This would only further confuse a person with face blindness. People with face blindness who are in a business environment may use someone’s hair style, how they dress, or their chin shape as a cue to help them “recognize” someone they already know. Changing any of these cues would only complicate an already difficult situation of poor recognition. Face blindness can create serious social problems. They often use alternative routes to recognition, but these routes are not as effective as actual recognition of someone’s face.

Imagine walking into your place of work where you have been for years and not recognizing a close co-worker or your boss. They describe the experience as “a memory that has not been filed.” They can describe what they see but they cannot “micromeasure” the information in order for it to be used again and again. People who may be unaware that they are having contact with someone with face blindness may be offended with the fact that this person really does not recognize them. The face blindness person may receive a reaction of being snobbish, inattentive, or offensive. Imagine seeing the same people who you have been working with for years and not being able to recognize their faces! We recognize faces for the identity, the beauty, the character, the expression, and the emotions that are seen, perceived, and processed by us. All of these normal human characteristics are missing in the face blind person. So the term “blindness” should probably be replaced with “misperception.” But the term “blindness” catches our attention.

Recently, there has been evidence that people can be born with face blindness. The causes of face blindness are still in the early investigative stages. A woman who had a tumor removed in the fusiform area of the temporal lobe suffered face blindness after the surgery. But congenital face blindness patients who had MRI’s of this same area all had a normal functioning temporal lobe and a normal fusiform face area. Areas that are currently under research include the role of brain damage, brain injuries, seizures, tumors, nerves, the wiring within the brain, and neurochemicals. It would appear that the human eye’s ability to see is totally intact and functional in these patient’s. These people have no problems functioning in high level occupations such as a doctor or a computer analyst. Once the visualized information begins its optical, chemical, neurological, psychological, and interpretive journey to the brain, something breaks down.

Something that is still unknown to researchers and medical scientists causes the breakdown of recognition, interpretation, understanding, perception, and memory of a face that may be new or one that has been seen numerous times. There may be different causes to face blindness based on congenital, developmental, or hormonal problems compared to face blindness caused by a traumatic brain injury or a tumor. There may be a neurobiological disorder, a microbiological, or a micro-chemical problem whose causes are not yet fully understood. There may be DNA, RNA, or chromosomal abnormalities.

The study of face blindness has been crucial in the development of the theories of face perception. Face blindness is not a single disorder; different people may show different types and levels of impairment. It has been argued that face perception involves a number of stages, each of which can be caused by separately damaged areas of the brain. This is reflected not just in the amount of impairment displayed, but also in the qualitative differences in impairment that a person with face blindness may exhibit.

As difficult as it would be for an adult to suffer from face blindness, it could be more difficult for children. They may have a difficult time making friends because they cannot recognize their classmates. They may be unable to distinguish who a brother or sister may be and be unable to be certain that “mom is mom.” Teachers, school professionals, and physicians may treat these children for some other problem than that which really does exist. Medical professionals must become more aware that this is a real problem and develop some diagnostic tests that can utilized to distinguish face blindness from something more serious such as functional autism.

Face Blindness on 60 Minutes


The outlook for a cure or for more understanding of this and many other medical problems lies in the research, the dollars available for research, and the public outcry for solving these problems. Up to this point, there has been no public outcry for solving the face blindness problem compared to medical problems such as autism. With public awareness increased by the national exposure created by the 60 Minutes piece that was broadcast recently this may change." -- Source: Eye Care Professional Magazine. See How My Face Blindness Means I Can't Recognise My Mum. See More.

Back to top.

Helpful Health Hints


Pages And Points To Ponder








About Hair

Eyes Have It

Ear Candling

Back Walking


The Water Cure

Inner Clean Diet

What About Gout

For Women Only

The Human Body

For Garlic Lovers

Sugar Is A Poison

Reflexology Chart


What's Eating You

Yogi Bhajan's Diet

The Oreo Dilemma

Vegetarian Recipes

Food Ads vs. Reality

A Healing Meditation

Drinking Driving Dead

Test Your Eyes Online

Beware: Canned Soup

Notes From Your Liver

Meditation For Women

How To Reverse Aging

Sugar Dumbs Us Down

What About Gallstones

What About Chemtrails

What About Aspartame

The Color of Depression

Beware: "No Added MSG"

Do Doctors Cause Dementia

Texting And Driving Is Crazy

It's Time To Rag On Ragweed

What About Sodium Benzoate


Left Brain-Right Brain Diversity

Be Warned If You're On Statins

The Aquarian Age Wake Up Call

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

Lasik Eye Surgery - FDA Warning

Drug Company Insider Confesses

Corporations are killing Americans

A Critical Look At Optical Retailers

Jimmy Carter And Women's Rights

What Your Optician Needs To Know

Is Alzheimer's Diabetes of The Brain

Appendix: A Newly Discovered Organ

Another Side of The Soy-Protein Story

See What Happens When You Meditate

See Why Sikhs Keep Their Hair Unshorn

What About PPA (PhenylPropanolAmine)

Use Himalayan Salt - Do Not Use Table Salt

Opticians: Merchants or Health Care Providers

Your Health By DaSign    Other Views

 Cleansing Diet    Meatless Is Better

More Web sites by

SAAAP.org Dieterata.com
AllIsOne.guru HariSingh.com
TheISites.com SikhTribes.com
SopaSeca.com SikhSongs.com
UbuntuAge.com WaheGuru.guru
UntoInfinity.com NarayanOil.com
LeftOfMaya.com SikhsShine.com
EyesOnPies.com Turbanators.com
SikhAnthem.com IsolatedSeer.com
BroadPoints.com 13EkOngKar.com
Obama43To1.com SoothingSpa.com
HariKaurBird.com ChardeeKala.com
OpticalViews.com 2020ForEyes.com
KhalsaVision.com SPIRITofGRD.com
GuruRamDas.com LakeKillarney.com
DualityOptics.com HariSinghBird.com
Interior-Guard.com SatKartarSingh.com
OpticalCourse.com DrRamonIbarra.com
MiriPiriWarrior.com FitItAndForgetIt.com
1IsTheAnswer.com OpticianryToday.com
SatNamMeans.com WordPhysiology.com
KaliYugaSigns.com JustAddedWater.com
SiriSinghSahib.com EyewearMoodys.com
1And1Equals11.com PreetKaurKhalsa.com
CloseOrderDrill.com WhiteTantraYoga.com
RamDhanSingh.com 3HOLegacyLinks.com
2020ForWomen.com TheMahanTantric.com
HangupsByHari.com SiriMantraForLife.com
ACTForDiversity.com OpticianryReview.com
AdiShaktiMantra.com 2020ForOpticians.com
ScienceOfMudra.com OpticalGuidelines.com
OneIsTheAnswer.com GuruGobindSingh.com
ScienceOfMantra.com OpticalWorkshops.com
GuruGaitriMantra.com KirpalSinghKhalsa.com
OohRahMemorial.com SimranKaurKhalsa.com
AkalCommittee13.com SadhanaGuidelines.com
GurdwaraSecurity.com YouAreTheEssence.com
AmarSinghKhalsa.com KundaliniYogapedia.com
DiversityDialogues.org StFrancisOfficePark.com
SensitivitySummit.com ToTheSweetestMom.com
AwtarSinghKhalsa.com YogiBhajansTeacher.com
SurvivalCampUSA.com OpticalShiftHappens.com
KhalsaWebMasters.com AllForOneWonForAll.com
MasculineMoments.com DrinkingDrivingDead.com
AhaMomentOfTruth.com MyInterviewWithGod.com
HairInLaysTheTruth.com SaTaNaMaMeditation.com
PartnersNotParents.com FaceBlindnessIsReal.com
ToTheSweetestWife.com ToServeIsToSucceed.com
EachMomentIsAGift.com ServingVersusSelling.com
SikhAndYeShallFind.com SukhmaniKaurKhalsa.com
OpticiansForChange.com LakesideManorOnline.com
HappinessIsTheRule.com EyeWearProfessionals.com
AtTheFeetOfTheYogi.com SecurityAdvisoryTeam.com
SiriGuruGranthSahib.guru ReligionDemographics.com
RaMaDaSaMeditation.com TimeForCraftsmanship.com
UniversityOfDiversity.com FirstSikhOfSikhDharma.com
DispensingGuidelines.com HealthEqualsHappiness.com
CourageousDialogues.com GoodGuysWearTurbans.com
SatKriyaByYogiBhajan.com AquarianAgeBeganHere.com
IfYouKnowWhoYouAre.com ButterflyEffectExplained.com
EyeExaminationOnline.com FirstTeachersAreWomen.com
GlassesOnlineWarning.com SugarIsAFourLetterWord.com
IDoNotEatDeadAnimals.com SikhWomenWearTurbans.com
MoreThanYouCanKnow.com WomenWimpsOrWarriors.com
OpticiansForThePeople.com CosmicCyclesAndCircles.com
OnsiteFamilyHealthcare.com TheAfterDeathExperience.com
SantSipahiAdvisoryTeam.com IAmABornAgainAmerican.com
KirtanKriyaByYogiBhajan.com TestYourKnowledgeOnline.com
SatHanumanSinghKhalsa.com LifeAccordingToYogiBhajan.com
TextingAndDrivingIsCrazy.com NowYouKnowThatYouKnow.com
ItsAllAboutMeNotAboutYou.com KundaliniYogaByYogiBhajan.com
CrucifixionByAnEyewitness.com EndOfPrideAndPrejudiceIsNigh.com
GodAndMeMeAndGodAreOne.com EkOngKarSatNamSiriWaheGuru.com
ReachOutAndTouchSomebody.com TheTechnologyOfConsciousness.com
ConsciousCommunicationGuidelines.com OneIsTheAnswerWhatIsTheQuestion.com

  *Consultation with a health care professional should occur before applying adjustments or treatments to the body, consuming medications or nutritional supplements and before dieting, fasting or exercising. None of these activities are herein presented as substitutes for competent medical treatment. See Disclaimer.

© All rights reserved.

Analytics Made Easy - StatCounter