How To Find Medical Articles on Face Blindness
Do not waste much time in city libraries. It is very unlikely you will find much. I found just one book in the city libraries here in San Francisco that dealt with face blindness at all, and San Francisco is a reasonably-sized city. That book did not cover a lot of ground; it devoted only a couple of chapters to face blindness.
The place to look instead is in the libraries of medical universities. For example, I found most of the things I had references to, in the library at the University of California medical school in San Francisco. If you are not a student in such schools, they will seldom let you take things out of the library, but often they will let you read things there.
You will not be needing to check things out anyway, because it is doubtful you will find any books devoted entirely to face blindness. What you will find are a few pages or a chapter here and there in an occasional book that deals with it. Beyond that, everything else to be found will be a few dozen articles in medical "journals," which are really magazines. A typical article will run ten to twenty pages, and of course the rest of the magazine will deal with other things altogether.
If something really interests you, libraries will often have a copy machine that you can use. They know you are a captive audience though, so be prepared to get reamed. Bring lots of money.
Almost all of the articles I've found deal with three subjects:
- How people do on tests, mostly looking at still photographs, that have been contrived to detect the condition.
- What part of the brain, when it malfunctions, is responsible for the condition.
- How some face blind people recognize faces on a subconscious level (but they still can't use the information any more than the face blind people who don't have this ability can).
You will discover none of the articles deals with the observation of more than a few face blind people, and quite a few deal with the observation of only one person. You will not find anywhere a study involving, say, hundreds of people, a sample size that statisticians seek out if it is available. The condition is just too rare.
If you are going to do research, to find stuff you will need to know the medical term for the condition, "prosopagnosia." This word, which means "face ignorance" in Greek, was coined in the 1940's, no doubt by someone who did not have the condition. I shy away from the term myself because:
- No one can spell it or pronounce it. Can't-spell-it-agnosia and can't-say-it-agnosia are rampant. The sure way to make sure people stay ignorant about something is to give them a word they can't say or spell. The word simply gets in the way of people learning of us. It gets in the way of people remembering us when they do. And those things hurt us.
- The word is virtually unknown to the public anyway. It does not appear in my unabridged dictionary, and it triggers the blasted spell checker, too.
- We need a common name that can be understood by ordinary folks and by children. Children do get this condition and it needs to be explainable to them. They also need to be able to explain it to playmates, or their teachers need to be able to. The medical term will not play on a playground. "Face blind" will.
- What works with the public is to use common words. There are two similar conditions - color blindness and tone deafness - for which their sufferers are already doing that. The public is aware of those two conditions, and I've found face blindness very easy to explain to people by drawing an analogy to those two conditions, and people remember it....
- I wouldn't call someone "color ignorant" or "tone ignorant." I don't care to be called - in any language - "face ignorant."
- I'm not shy to throw off a clinical-sounding word if there is a better common one and, from what I've seen on the bookstore shelves down on Castro Street, we're not alone in doing that.
There are two great things about having the word. One is that people will often ask you for the medical term to assure themselves the condition is real. Then, of course, they promptly forget the term and remember the common one. The second thing I like about the word is that it is hard to spell and pronounce, and the more so a medical name is, the more impressed people are, so this also helps drive home that the condition is real.
Back to talking about research, when reading journal articles, do not overlook the bibliographies that follow each article. They tend to be quite extensive, and they can often lead to additional interesting stuff. I know this sounds like the way we used to do things before we had the web, but quite a bit of the medical information is not on the web yet. That does bring us, though, to the next topic....
On the Web
You will find significant material on the web, particularly the newer material. Some of these will also contain bibliographies that give you good leads to take to medical school libraries. On the Web is where you will find writings by other face blind people. You will find about a dozen of them. None are as extensive as this document, but some are what one would call "several pages". Others may just be a page, but each gives you that person's unique insight. (Writings by other face blind people are linked in Appendix C).
Use a search engine that does a good job at rating sites, such as Google. Otherwise your search will bring up many pages of professors' tests and meager (outlined) class notes. The word "prosopagnosia" appears frequently in such documents and in them little additional information is provided.
Five years ago, most professors' sites just mentioned the name and a brief definition. Now we are seeing a lot more information on many sites, which to us is a great sign! It causes us to realize students are now learning more than that the condition exists and that it has a name - they are learning something about it. Our next generation when they interact with professionals will encounter a much better world.
To date, most student interest has been in the areas where papers are written already. I have heard little to date from anyone interested in the social or psychological effects of the condition, so I suspect papers on such topics to remain sparse in the immediate future.
Face blind people would encourage movement into those realms. I will leave those contemplating a paper with this one thought: When one treads familiar ground, one ends up with an impressive bibliography at the end of his paper but contributes nothing new in it.
"Face Blind!" - Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Discovering Face Blindness Chapter 3 Physical Causes of Face Blindness Chapter 4 The Importance of Recognizing Others Chapter 5 How Most People Recognize Others Chapter 6 Ways To Recognize Others Without Using the Face Chapter 7 How Non-Face Recognition Methods Work in Practice Chapter 8A ...Bill: How I Tell People Apart Chapter 8B ...Pertti: Recognition System - The Essence Model Chapter 9 Effect of Face Blindness on Emotions Chapter 10 Effect of Face Blindness on Sexuality Chapter 11 Effect of Face Blindness on Your Social Groups Chapter 12 Understanding Why People Choose To Look Alike Chapter 13 Ways To Improve Our Lives
Appendix A How To Find Medical Articles on Face Blindness - YOU ARE HERE Appendix B Getting Diagnosed (Tested) for Face Blindness Appendix C Links to Other Face Blind People Appendix D Author's Information Page
This document is copyrighted. For information, or to contact the author, go to Appendix D, the Author's Information Page.
Text of this chapter last substantially revised January 1, 2002, with minor revisions on November 10, 2005.