Do you have “face blindness”? Take this 20-point test to find out…

  • Face blindness is a disorder that prevents you from recognizing familiar faces
  • Some estimate that two per cent of people have it, but a new study suggests it’s more
  • Try the King’s College London quiz to see if you’re one of them

Many of us have trouble remembering names, but can still identify a former co-worker or former flame when they pop up on social media.

However, a new study from Harvard University found that up to 5.42% of people struggle with the opposite problem.

“Prosopagnosia,” or face blindness, is a disorder that prevents you from recognizing faces you have seen before, including those of friends and family.

It can also prevent you from identifying yourself in photos or in the mirror, or make you feel like you know complete strangers.

Last year, Brad Pitt detailed his experience with the disease, admitting “no one believes him” when he talks about it.

‘Prosopagnosia’, or face blindness, is a disorder that prevents the person from recognizing faces they have seen before, including those of friends and family (stock image)

Nursery nurse Hannah Read, who has the UK’s worst case of face blindness, said ‘every face looks the same’ and is just ‘two eyes, one nose and one mouth’.

What is face blindness?

Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize people’s faces.

Also known as “face blindness”, the severity of the condition depends on the degree of impairment a person has.

Some people with prosopagnosia may only have trouble recognizing a familiar face, while others will be unable to distinguish between unfamiliar faces and, in more severe cases, sufferers cannot distinguish a face as being different from an object.

Some sufferers are unable to recognize their own face.

Hollywood actor Brad Pitt, comedian Stephen Fry and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt are among those who have admitted to suffering from face blindness.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

People with this disorder may cope by using other ways to recognize people, such as remembering the way they walk, their hairstyle, their voice, or their clothes.

It is thought to be the result of abnormalities, damage or impairment of the right fusiform gyrus – a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate facial perception and memory.

Prosopagnosia can result from stroke, traumatic brain injury, or certain neurodegenerative diseases, but in some cases it is present at birth.

It seems to run in families, making it likely the result of a genetic mutation or deletion.

While it’s commonly cited that between 2 and 2.5% of the world’s population suffers from some form of face blindness, researchers set out to determine its true prevalence in a new study published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders.

They recruited 3,341 people to complete three different online surveys, the first asking them to describe their own experiences of face recognition in their daily lives.

The next two were then objective tests that probed their ability to learn new faces and recognize famous faces, respectively.

The results showed that 31 people had a severe form of prosopagnosia, while 72 had a mild form – a total of three percent of study participants.

They also found that participants who could easily recognize faces and those who could not were not obviously distinguishable.

Instead, most of them fell somewhere on a spectrum of severity and presentation, similar to other developmental disorders like autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year, Brad Pitt detailed his experience with face blindness, admitting “no one believes him” when he talks about it.

The researchers then used different diagnostic criteria to assess some of the participants with face blindness.

Depending on their degree of rigor, they identified affected prosopagnosia between 0.13 and 5.42% of the group.

Interestingly, it was also found that the strictest criteria did not always identify those with the lowest ability to recognize faces.

As a result, they concluded that scientists studying the disorder should relax their diagnostic threshold and divide people into “mild” or “major” cases.

The diagnostic criteria for face blindness vary, but researchers at King’s College London have created a short questionnaire for people who think they may have it.

He asks people how much they agree with phrases like “I often mistake people I’ve met for strangers” or “I sometimes have trouble following movies because of difficulty recognizing characters”.

Other questions include: “When I was in school, I had trouble recognizing my classmates” or “When people change their hairstyles or wear hats, I have trouble recognizing them” .

Each question is scored out of five, giving a total score of up to 100. This final score could be used to help determine the severity of face blindness.


The following statements relate to your facial recognition abilities.

For each item, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree by choosing the appropriate numbered response on a scale of one to five.

One represents you strongly agree while five represents you strongly disagree.

Read each item carefully before responding and respond as honestly as possible.

1. My facial recognition ability is worse than most people.

2. I’ve always had a bad memory for faces.

3. I find it much easier to recognize people who have distinctive facial features

4. I often confuse people I’ve met with strangers

5. When I was in school, I had trouble recognizing my classmates

6. When people change their hairstyles or wear hats, I have trouble recognizing them.

7. I sometimes have to warn new people I meet that I’m “bad with faces.”

8. I find it easy to picture individual faces in my mind

9. I’m better than most people at putting a “name to a face”

10. Without hearing people’s voices, I have trouble recognizing them.

11. Facial recognition anxiety caused me to avoid social or work situations

12. I have to try harder than others to memorize faces.

13. I am very confident in my ability to recognize myself in photos.

14. I sometimes have trouble following the movies because of the difficulty in recognizing the characters

15. My friends and family think I have poor facial recognition or poor facial memory.

16. I feel like I frequently offend people by not acknowledging who they are

17. I find it easy to recognize people in situations that require people to wear similar clothing (eg, suits, uniforms, bathing suits)

18. At family gatherings, I sometimes confuse family members.

19. I find it easy to recognize celebrities in “before they were famous” photos, even if they’ve changed significantly

20. It’s hard to recognize familiar people when I meet them out of context (for example, meeting a work colleague out of the blue while shopping


For each question, other than those named below, score a point from 1 to 5 (1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree)

Items 8, 9, 13, 17 and 19 should be scored backwards. that is, 5 = 1; 4 = 2; 3 = 3; 2 = 4; 1 = 5 2.

Add the numbered answers to calculate a score between 20 (facial recognition intact) and 100 (facial recognition severely impaired)

Source: Medical Research Center

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