Understanding Face Blindness & Autism

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The facial recognition system is a means for people with the condition to get around their impairment. This raises questions about how technology can best be used in all situations, and what ethical implications it may have.

Face blindness is a condition in which people cannot recognize the faces of others. It can be caused by autism or other conditions. This article will provide an understanding of face blindness and how it affects those who have it.


Face blindness, also known as prosopagnosia, is a syndrome that may be caused by a brain damage but is also linked to developmental problems such as autism. Prosopagnosia affects around 40% of persons with autism.

Face blindness is more connected with social identification and communication issues in people with autism, according to research. People who merely have prosopagnosia may have trouble understanding distance or angles, recognizing items or locations, or navigating – none of which are related to human faces. People with autism with facial blindness may still identify locations, but face recognition and body language are difficult for them.

Both autism and prosopagnosia support groups may help you connect with individuals who share your problems and provide social support. The most common treatment for autism is behavior therapy. A therapist may be able to assist someone with prosopagnosia in developing coping skills so that they can identify individuals more often in the future.

What Is Face Blindness and How Does It Affect You? Is It Connected to Autism?

Face blindness is a slang name for prosopagnosia, a mental health problem. This issue essentially implies that you are unable to identify people’s faces, while you may be able to remember other aspects of them, such as their voice, the clothing in which you first encountered them, or the environment in which you regularly meet them, such as work.

Unfortunately, this illness may have a significant influence on daily life, such as employment opportunities, friendships, and romantic relationships. Tricks for remembering individuals don’t always work, and the conversation might become stressful, sad, or uncomfortable as a result.

Because of this condition, people with prosopagnosia may avoid social engagement and develop social anxiety disorder. Depression is very widespread, as are difficulties in relationships and professions.

Face blindness has a number of negative consequences, one of which is the inability to identify the faces of individuals you care about. However, other consequences of face blindness may have nothing to do with appearances. These are some of them:

  • Failure to identify emotions or facial expressions.

  • Inability to comprehend television or movies due to a lack of character recognition.

  • Inability to identify someone’s gender.

  • Having difficulty following someone’s gaze or staring into their eyes.

  • Recognizing items or locations is difficult.

  • Having difficulty navigating, processing angles, and comprehending distance.

  • Having trouble recalling locations or landmarks.

Prosopagnosia is divided into two types:

  1. From infancy onwards, developmental prosopagnosia is a normal element of brain development.

  2. When a person suffers brain damage, such as from a stroke or a brain accident, acquired prosopagnosia develops.

For years, the medical community assumed that most cases of prosopagnosia were caused by brain damage; however, recent studies on developmental conditions, particularly people with mild symptoms such as Level 1 autism, suggest that developmental prosopagnosia affects a larger number of people than previously thought.

Developmental facial blindness affects around one in every 50 persons. Simultaneously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one out of every 54 children in the United States will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a disease that is linked to facial blindness.

The Overlap Between Face Blindness & Autism

Autism and other developmental problems are linked to a greater risk of facial blindness. According to some study, a lack of social interest in faces — for example, concentrating on the surroundings or a particular portion of the face other than the eyes — may increase the likelihood of developing prosopagnosia.

Importantly, face blindness does not seem to have a role in the development of autism. Many persons who have the illness do not satisfy the diagnostic criteria for it.

Face blindness does not affect just one part of the brain. Instead, it’s a network of brain areas, and when one fails, the others may suffer as well. Testing for face blindness, particularly via eye gaze studies, may be a means to diagnose autism in infants as early as two years old when other behavioral indications are more difficult to read.

Prosopagnosia affects between 2% and 2.5 percent of the general population. Autism affects around 4% to 5% of the population. According to certain studies, up to 40% of persons with autism also exhibit facial blindness. This suggests that around three-quarters of those with prosopagnosia are not autistic.

Scientific Research on Face Blindness, Autism & Their Co-Occurrence

There have been some studies that demonstrate particular prosopagnosia-like symptoms in persons with autism, thus there may be some parallels with facial blindness, but the syndrome is not identical. Persons with autism, for example, exhibit distinct deficiencies in facial recognition, although they are not as severe as in people with real face blindness, according to a study published in 2011.

When it comes to measures like recalled or discriminated facial identity, people with autism tend to do lower than their neurotypical friends. When there is a time delay between looking at a face and taking a test, this impairment seems to worsen. When there are no other duties that place a strain on a person’s memory, they are better able to recall faces. As with some persons with prosopagnosia, this memory problem seems to be limited to faces and does not extend to surrounds or objects.

A further research confirmed that persons with autism had difficulty with social signals, which may have symptoms comparable to face blindness but isn’t exactly prosopagnosia. Face memory problems were shown to be domain-specific and process-specific in the research, indicating that both cases resulted in a loss in face memory. There was no indication, however, that objects, places, or non-human memories were affected, as may be the case with prosopagnosia.

Body details were also shown to be damaged in the recollections of persons with autism, indicating that social cues were more degraded and hence did not end up in long-term memory. However, other characteristics of a person’s personality may be remembered.

Support for People Who Struggle With Prosopagnosia & Autism

There is no cure for prosopagnosia, just as there isn’t one for autism. Children with autism who get behavior treatment to address communication and socialization issues will have less difficulties in daily circumstances as they develop.

Specific outward indicators to identify persons, such as favorite jewelry, hair color or style, the tone of their voice, their accent, or even their walk, are some coping mechanisms for people with prosopagnosia. Regrettably, these indicators aren’t always useful. The individual may, for example, cut their hair so that they are no longer clearly recognisable. This may be very upsetting, and it can exacerbate autism symptoms as well as anxiety and sadness.

Anxiety and despair may be relieved by receiving support from individuals who understand your challenges. Here are some resources for individuals who are facing similar challenges:

Working with your physician and behavior therapist to determine whether your kid has any comorbid issues, such as facial blindness, is important. It might be a social comprehension difficulty for persons with autism who have symptoms like prosopagnosia, which a behavior therapist can assist with.

While the individual may always have some degree of facial blindness, a behavior therapist may assist them in developing measures to alleviate the problem. Working with an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist may also assist the client in learning to better control their autistic symptoms. Although there is no cure for autism, continuous treatment may significantly improve symptom management, allowing many people with autism to function effectively in daily life.


Prosopagnosia is a condition in which a person is unable to recognize (Face Blindness). (April 2019). The National Health Service is a government-run healthcare system.

Blindness on the face. The Autism Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping

Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. (March 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Centre for Face Processing Disorders has information about prosopagnosia.

Face Blindness Could Be Caused by a Failed Brain Network, and Could Help to Explain Autism. (Updated November 2019) News in Neuroscience

What Percentage of Asperger’s Is Due to Face or Emotion Blindness? (February 2013). Today’s Psychology.

Face Identity Recognition in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Review of Behavioral Studies. (March 2012). Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Face Recognition Deficits Are Domain and Process Specific in Autism Spectrum Disorders. (October 2013). PLoS One is a journal that publishes research findings.

Face Processing in a Child with Developmental Prosopagnosia and High-Functioning Autism (2018). Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis is a journal dedicated to experimental neurobiology.

Why Is It So Difficult To Recognize People’s Faces? (Aug. 2017) TIME.

Observing Autism and Blindness Connections (November 2019). Spectrum.

Finding the Parts of the Brain That Cause Face Blindness (February 2020). Networks of Technology

Face blindness is a condition that affects people with autism. It is difficult to understand how common it is because there are no studies on the subject. Though, one study found that only 1% of people with autism were affected by face blindness. Reference: how common is face blindness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a person with face blindness see?

A: Someone with face blindness sees a collection of blurry, vague blobs that represent facial features. These people can still see colors and shapes but are unable to distinguish the difference between specific faces or eyes.

Can someone with face blindness read emotions?

A: Unfortunately, it is not possible for a person with face blindness to read facial emotions. This is due to the fact that there are too many expressions and they would take too long to learn them all.

What is face blindness like?

A: Face blindness is a condition where the brain cannot process faces in general, and can cause problems with reading facial expressions.

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