Alison Shorer

Bringing psychology research to classroom practice

Faceblindness and why is important for teachers know about faceblindness.

The prevalence of faceblindness is estimated to be 3% of the population and that could be 1 in every class, in theory. When thinking about a school of 200 it could be very likely that you have at least 5 or 6 children with this condition.

Faceblindness, I think, is a misnomer but is much easier to say than developmental prosopagnosia (DP) which is pronounced as “pro-so-pag-nose-ee-a”. This is because people with this condition can see your face and are not blind in any sense. They just are not good at recognising faces. Some people with the condition say that they may be able to remember you if they meet you ten times, however, there are others who we will call, for arguments’ sake, severely faceblind and will never recognise your face. This is even if you are a family member.

For my psychology degree research, I interviewed people who have had Dp their whole life but most had only recently realised that they have the condition. This was mainly because the condition was not widely recognised or known. Their experiences are varied but most had some psycho-social consequence, such as avoiding socialising or not having children through the fear of losing them. This, as you can see, are very real outcomes of the condition. Professionals and people who cared for them when they were young did not know about the condition. This can change and I want to educate as many people, in particular education professionals, about DP.

Coping strategies for faceblindness

My research studied the coping strategies that they used in childhood and identified behaviours may be like in the classroom. There were some people had been misdiagnosed with autism or social anxiety, when actually they are just anxious about recognising people. My research acknowledged this difference and I have renamed it as “recognition anxiety”. Those misdiagnosed with autism had “strange” behaviours, such as not talking to anyone at break and/or walking around the playground to avoid all encounters. One interviewee wondered every playtime “where her friends had gone”.

Teachers and faceblindness

It is easy for teachers to recognise the coping strategies of children with DP, once they are aware of what to look for. Some people develop dysfunctional coping strategies and these can have a detrimental effect on success in other areas of their life as they grow up. Imagine if you are not able to recognise patients in your care or over-talking to people as you are not sure who they are.

For CPD training for your team, get in touch by email (alison.philosophy@hotmail.com) or phone (07971512740). I have twilight sessions available as well as half day and whole day training.