Welcome to troublewithfaces.org. This is a new initiative on face recognition difficulties across a variety of conditions, led by a group of researchers trying to better understand how people recognise faces and understand expressions.
In particular, we are interested in the mechanisms underlying these difficulties in developmental prosopagnosia, autism and alexithymia. While these conditions are unrelated, and rarely co-occur, each is associated with characteristic face perception difficulties. If you think you might have any of these conditions, and would like to find out more, or take part in our research, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Around 2% of the general population are born with developmental prosopagnosia (so-called 'face blindness'); a condition characterised by difficulties recognising faces. People with developmental prosopagnosia often use non-face cues to recognise others, such as their hairstyle, clothes, voice, or distinctive features. Sometimes individuals are unaware they have the condition, instead believing they have 'bad memory for faces'. In fact, prosopagnosia is entirely unrelated to intelligence or broader memory ability. The condition is unrelated to alexithymia and the majority of prosopagnosics recognise facial expressions without any difficulty. If you think you might have prosopagnosia, you can complete the PI20 questionnaire, a validated measure of prosopagnosia severity.
Alexithymia is a condition characterised by difficulties recognising, distinguishing and describing feelings from the bodily sensations of emotional arousal. Crucially, however, research conducted by ourselves and others suggests that alexithymia is associated with impaired recognition of others' emotional expressions. The incidence of alexithymia in the general population is thought to be 5-10%, however studies suggest severe degrees of alexithymia in at least 50% of individuals with autism. Despite having problems recognising facial expressions, individuals with alexithymia typically recognise facial identity without any difficulty. Alexithymia can be measured by completing a simple questionnaire. We will email you with more details after it is completed.