Prosopagnosia – or ‘face blindness’ – is a little known condition affecting 1 in 50 people. As Bournemouth University psychology lecturer Dr Sarah Bate explains, it is ‘literally a loss of memory for faces’.
Speaking to BBC Inside Out’s Jon Cuthill, Dr Bate said: “Prosopagnosia sufferers know what a face is. They know the basic configuration of a face, but they absolutely fail to indentify individuals, no matter how close those people are to them.”
Dr Bate and her team at Bournemouth University have developed a brand new test to identify how good people are at face recognition. It works by processing patterns in eye movement whilst looking at a face.
The findings show that in control trials, participants scan the face in a triangular pattern, looking at the eyes, nose and mouth. In contrast, prosopagnosia sufferers compensate for their lack of recognition by looking at external features of the face, such as the ears and hair.
You can find out more about BournemouthUniversity’s research into the condition by watching Dr Bate’s recent interview on BBC Inside Out. The feature is 11 minutes in.
You can test yourself for prosopagnosia at Sarah’s website: www.prosopagnosiaresearch.org.