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Coping Strategies for Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness) - Download PDF

© Professor Sarah Bate, Bournemouth University, UK.

Strategy Potential Risks
Reliance on significant others to cue the identity of others:
  • Ask others for identity prompts.
  • Ask others to tailor conversations during social events.
Requires preparation and effort; need to be discrete; significant others have to be present; may not be possible to direct conversation.
Visual association:
  • Develop memorable links between a person's qualities and character using objects, locations, etc.
Requires regular contact and some degree of familiarity with each person. Some people also struggle with visual imagery.
Use distinguishing facial cues to identity:
  • Memorise distinguishing facial features, e.g. unusual eyebrows, blemishes, distinctive features, skin tone.
  • Exaggerate physical attributes of the face (caricaturing).
  • Use mouth movements during speech.
  • Use idiosyncratic motion within the entire face.
Requires regular contact to maintain associations. Can be mentally exhaustive and effortful. Requires extensive study of people's faces which can be deemed socially inappropriate.
Identify others through conversation:
  • Ask people to introduce themselves.
  • Repeat a person's name during conversation.
  • Introduce oneself first and hope they do the same.
  • Use the topic of conversation as a cue to identity.
  • Use general small talk to cue identity.
  • Gauge a person's reaction to the conversation.
  • Use the voice as an identity cue.
  • Be more of a listener than a talker to buy time.
Can be mentally exhaustive and conversations may not reveal identity. Using introductions can be perceived as odd, formal or old-fashioned, or simply inappropriate in some contexts. May be viewed as unwilling to engage in some/all aspects of conversation.
Extra-facial cues to identity:
  • E.g. voice, gait, mannerisms, hairstyle, smell, jewellery, clothes, body shape/posture, character, height, tattoos, ethnicity, gender, spectacles, handwriting, school bags.
Can be unreliable when suddenly changed or met out of context; some information may not always be present. Multiple strategies may need to be combined – mentally exhaustive. Environments that require uniform may prohibit some strategies.
Recognition aids:
  • Memorise detailed notes on behaviour, appearance, etc.
  • Study photographs.
  • Use social media for repeated exposure.
  • Write names down during meetings.
  • Use name tags.
  • Obtain identifying information before an encounter.
Can be unreliable in different contexts. Effortful. Name tags are often inappropriate, and when they are used can be difficult to read. Person may have changed some aspects of appearance from original photograph.
  • Avoid uncomfortable situations.
  • Use pretence or humour to hide difficulties.
  • Avoid using names or being the one to make introductions.
  • Avoid being the first person to arrive at a prearranged spot.
May be inappropriate or untenable at work, could bring about adverse psychosocial consequences. Excuses may still be interpreted as "rudeness" or shift focus to other "detrimental" traits (e.g. absent-mindedness).

Source: Adams, A., Hills, P., Bennetts, R., & Bate, S. (in press). Coping strategies for developmental prosopagnosia. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.