Too Many Faces

I realize that I haven’t really spoken about something that has a huge impact in my life. Its something a lot of us take for granted. Most people look at a face and know what it means but when I look at faces I am most often confused.

I can’t remember people’s faces so I try to pick one very distinctive feature and try to remember that. If they change the feature I choose then I am out of luck. This was often questioned when I needed to describe shoplifters in a convenience store I worked in when I was younger.

In addition to my inability to recognize people out of context I also have a hard time reading the intentions or feelings of the faces in front of me. Of course there are certain emotions that are easy, even for me, to recognize.

If someone has a huge smile with teeth they are generally happy. A crying person is obviously sad. Those emotions are easy and universal but everything in between is a mystery.

There are ways around this. If I am around someone long enough eventually (after years of practice) I can start to learn them enough to read more of their face. It is a lot of work and I don’t have that much time with most people.

Something people take for granted. I just feel like there are too may faces and my brain doesn’t want to take up useful space storing them. For me it is a lot of work and is NOT an efficient use of my time.

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AnonymouslyAutistic


15 thoughts on “Too Many Faces”

    1. I’m the same way. I can remember faces pretty well, but names are almost impossible for me, especially if I don’t see them every day for a while. I was a teacher for a while, and it took me half a semester to finally be able to connect all my students’ names and faces (usually about 60 students per semester).

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  1. I learn over time the patterns — even tiny facial expression patterns. Otherwise I’m face blind too. I have a worse time remembering names and have learned the trick of writing the name on a post it and putting it next to the person’s face for my brain to take a picture. When I am trying to remember this person’s name, my brain hunts for that picture and then I read the post it. Happens really quick in my head — of course this is with people I know well enough to do that with and really want to anchor their name in my head somehow. ❤

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  2. If it’s any comfort, neurotypicals frequently misinterpret people’s emotions or intentions based on their facial expressions, particularly of strangers. Because the assumption is that they’re good at it (they aren’t), autists’ inability to do so is seen as a disability. I believe it’s a serious mistake to assume that face blindness and failure to interpret facial expressions are necessarily, and always, tied together. Autistic or neurotypical, it takes time to learn what any person’s expressions mean because there is no single meaning attached to expressions, especially if the person chooses to conceal what they’re actually thinking or feeling.

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  3. I have a hard time recognising faces as well…. couldn’t recognise my neighbours after +10 years, couldn’t recognise my classmates after 3 years etc. Now when I am DXd with autism I feel better about explaining this to people (I’ve always apologised in advance) but this comes with a different problem. Professionals that work with me and know if this are sure that I recognise them for some reason, but I don’t. “___ has a hard time recognising faces. Oh, but you recognise me, right?” ..nope.

    I read too much into the emotions people show, so I have the opposite problem. I suppose when someone’s just showing a little sadness (to others), it reads to me as “heelp, my entire family just died”. :/

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  4. Hello 🙂 I find your posts really interesting. As I work with young children (3and 4 years old) we talk a lot about emotions. Young children find it difficult to read emotions and express their own emotions. I have had classes with autistic children in, and they don’t stand out amongst other young children. We use emotion puppets and cards with expressions on them, for children to show us how they are feeling. I can only start to imagine how difficult it is as an adult to find difficulty in reading emotions…like you said, it’s something people take for granted…
    On another note, my dad used to cycle past me, my sister and my mum on many occasions in the small town we used to live. He could look us in the eye, and still not recognize us!..I guess some people are better at recognizing faces than others! Take care. Carly

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  5. I noticed at a very young age my son did this too. He recognized people by a hat or car they drove. The older he got , I noticed he could actually see people for who they were and not what they looked like on the outside. 😊

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  6. I realized recently that compared to most people I am preactically face-blind. I can sometimes tell what people are feeling, but I rarely recognize people. Even when I know them pretty well, it gives conversations that extra bit of awkward to start

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  7. I’m way more comfortable if a person has a readable expression on their face. I then know the appropriate response, or at least, the appropriate sense of the situation, if that makes sense. If their face is unreadable it throws me into a very insecure feeling. I will assume they are judging me or they think I’m babbling or stupid or whatever, never something positive. I had a difficult conversation with someone last evening who had an unreadable face. She was also quite direct about her comments and answers to my questions. I kept apologizing because I simply didn’t know if my responses were correct. Ugh. She also had suggestions for me for correcting certain responses and behavior. It felt like a knife through my chest. It would have been far easier to handle if she had an expression of empathy, or anything, rather than the blank unreadable expression presented to me.

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  8. i don’t remember or recognize faces, especially out of context. if i see my neighbors with their distinctive dogs i might recognize them, without the dogs not.
    i warn new people to remind me again who they are when we meet again. i try to learn the voice; it takes longer. but voice is more distinct and the way someone speaks is unique. i still need to learn to decipher their emotions from the voice use, as some people always sound angry, fake, arrogant etc.

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  9. Of course it’s a waste of time to remember people’s faces. You got a life to live, not all lives to recall. Do you, boo. If people are annoyed that you don’t’ recall their faces, just tell the “truth”. “I’m too frantic and busy most times to remember my own things let alone a new person’s face; especially from weeks, months or years ago. Nothing personal against you, just a thing that is right now. I need to go. Sorry to cut this short. What was doing now?” Just Finding Dory the hell out of it and move on. Take care and at the end of the day, you know who you and your family are. That’s most important.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Same here on emotions. All too frequently, people who are suppressing sadness, fear, or disgust have squinched eyes and the corners of the mouth are turned up. To me, that looks like a smile, and often I’ll continue on my merry way expanding on a subject that person finds sad and/or scary. I have to be poked in the ribs to stop.

    I recognize living faces reasonably well, but photographs of the same faces throws me off. To me, there are only about 10 face categories and all the rest is details, so sometimes I get confused when two people have the same “face type”. That is different than “all XXX people look alike”; that’s not what it is, but it often sounds like that.

    As usual, thanks for sharing!

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