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Dr-David-Banner

New Thoughts On Face Blindness

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Dr-David-Banner

This could be quite helpful I found some psychiatric information from the USSR (studies dated around the 1980s). One section discusses "face blindness" and cleared up a few issues I'd not fully clarified to myself.
Quickly, as an intro, I will share an incident that happened two weeks ago. I was in a supermarket and bumped into a woman I knew quite well. We exchanged a few words and then I carried on to do some shopping. 10 minutes later, I was sat on a seat using Wi-Fi and evidently saw the same woman who was passing me by. I started to chat a little but, after a few seconds, I had that "funny feeling" again. She was looking at me kind of strange and confused and (as sometimes happens), I thought: "Is "this" who I thought it was? At that moment, I felt a wave of unease and figured I'd mistaken a stranger for the woman I had seem moment before. I quickly finished the conversation. Now, sure, I already know people with autism have these prosopagnosia issues and , sure, I had already figured out that actual prosopagnosia isn't quite the same thing as autism related face blindness. Fact is, a sufferer of prosopagnosia can "never" recognise faces  (including photos of family) whereas I know I have many times successfully recognised people on the street. Yet, on other occasions, I failed to recognise my own aunt in a supermarket. When that happens it really freaks people out and you get this very strange look.
Here is the take on it from USSR psychiatrists Kagan and Isaaev. Below I will try and simplify all the complex jargon after translation.

I don't know how many people on this forum have facial blindness but recall Nesf suffered from it and possibly Sanctuary? This may be a bit too clinical for the browsers but here goes:

"Эти факты согласуются с особенностью, отмечаемой родителями самостоятельно или при детальном сборе анамнеза: аутичные дети испытывают затруднения в узнавании человеческого лица, отличая людей по другим, косвенным признакам. Работая с аутичными детьми можно отметить, что узнавая своего врача в кабинете и привычной для них одежда они могут не угнать его в другой одежде, вне кабинета."
These facts are consistent with the peculiarity noted by parents on their own or from the detailed case history: autistic children have difficulty recognizing a human face, distinguishing people by other, indirect signs. When working with autistic children, it can be noted that recognizing their doctor in the office and their usual clothes, they may not recognise him in other clothes, outside the office.

(I recall years ago former forum member King Oni described exactly this problem (he relied on context and location).

"При повышении уровня активации (необходимость, эмоциональная заинтересованность, внешняя стимуляция) узнавание лица не нарушено. Эта особенность аутичных детей не соответствует представлениям о локальном поражении головного мозга с лицевой агнозией".
"If there is pronounced external stimulation (inducement, emotional interest, external stimulation), face recognition is not impaired. This feature of autistic children does not correspond to the concept of local brain damage with facial agnosia (prosopagnosia). "

This then cleared up why I "do" sometimes recognise people but generally I find it comes in waves and may depend upon state of mind or how far "estranged and isolated" I may be at a given time.

"на наш взгляд, объясняется тем, что ригидность и избирательность восприятия делают чрезвычайно динамичную и богатую нюансами мимику человеческого лица сверхсильным раздражителем, которого больные избегают."
In our opinion, this is explained by the rigidness and selectivity of (autistic) thought-processing to produce a thoroughly dynamic and vague (multi-perspective conceptual?) image of a human face which becomes a strong stimulant (which the patients avoid)."

(This latter bit I had trouble translating sense-wise as it's a bit long-winded. I think he's saying thought processes with autism are abstract (from afar) and sort of over-interpret the simple facial representation which in turn causes a kind of image overload which another part of the brain dismisses. So, you don't actually "personalise" the face.

"С этой особенностью, по-видимому, связана задержка выделения людей из мира предметов и избегание прямого зрительного контакта, а также особенности мимики аутичных детей."

"Failure to make eye-contact and defects in distinguishing  people from objects as well as peculiarities in imitation by autistic children are connected with this."

"Это можно сравнить с малодинамичной мимикой слепых и слабовидящих, формирующейся в связи с недостаточностью или отсутствием мимических образцов."

"This can be compared to the low-dynamic processing of blind or short-sighted people which is caused by lack or absence of processing images."

USSR psychiatrists noticed that "actual" sensory deprivation (through retina or earways), created psychological side-effects. In the USSR it was found many autistic people develop myopia as well (I actually have pretty bad myopia).

O.K., so here is the basic idea: In the USSR, filure to recognise faces is connected to РДА or Early Childhood Autism. This diagnosis originates from Leo Kanner. So, facial recognition issues are attributed plain and simply to autism along with other known attributes such as stimming (hand-flapping), clumsy motor movement, and above all low emotional responsiveness and low empathy. It's crucial to grasp that facial recognition disorder actually ties in and connects with the low empathy phenomenon. What western psychologists will never tell you is that with autism we basically convert human beings into "objects" in our thought processes which has to do with extreme abstract thinking. Above I posted "Is 'this' who I thought it was?" which were my exact thoughts at the time. I then realised, thinking that way I had sort of "objectified" the individual and this was also noted by Hans Asperger. Put simply the autistic mind has a very depersonalised, abstract processing mechanism and there lies the root of facial blindness.

Shown below V Kagan Soviet psychoanalyst.

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Dr-David-Banner

It seems this difficulty recognising faces has been detected during infancy. It was noted by parents (and doctors) that young children with autism were not very responsive to external surroundings. I also think if facial recognition is very typical of Kanner's Childhood Autism it is very safe to conclude adults and children with these symptoms are practically bound to be autistic. The only difference between autism face blindness and actual prosopagnosia is the latter is an actual brain disorder and far more severe. With prosopagnosia the sufferer can't distinguish face pics, photos - period. With autism it comes and goes in waves. 

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