Bad at visualizing faces?


A lot of people like to use specific individuals as memory pegs. But for me, I find it’s hard as my mind isn’t really prone to memorizing faces - it seems that everyone looks the same in my mind’s eye, other than maybe large scale features like head shape, haircut, or skin color. I can’t really see distinctive eyes or noses or mouths or ears - only the large scale features that I can see easily from a distance - it’s like I’m “farsighted” when it comes to faces in my mind’s eye.
This is not to say I have no images for specific people, I do. But most of them are childhood friends or world leaders. (For example, Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, Naruhito, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel, etc. all have clear images for me. But someone like the person I just met - no. I’d have to meet them over the course of a few weeks for my mind to develop a vague image of them.)
Am I weird? I can recall names easily (even really unusual names perfectly) but not faces.

(Josh Cohen) #2

I have some trouble with faces too. (described here and here) The exercise I mentioned in the other post helped me a bit.


I find specific photographs easier as well - maybe this is why prominent world leaders come so easily to me but not people I’ve just met.
In real life, I seem to identify someone more based on the sound of their voice and their typical neutral behavior patterns rather than their face - their face is more of a confirming feature for me, it seems. Or I see someone and I don’t know who it is, but their voice and behavior confirm who it is. I’d never admit this to someone, of course - I just play it off as “oh right, that’s your name. I have temporarily forgotten, sorry”. And I’m good with names!

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If you want to distinguish and remember faces, I strongly recommend you check out my previous post about a book that I find very helpful. Here is the link: Book: Mug Shots A Police Artists Guide To Remembering Faces (By Douglas P. Hinckle).

an older book called Mugshots

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There seems to have been several posts recently from people who are not able to visualize.

I don’t think I’ve ever been aware that such a problem existed. I would certainly have a lot of sympathy for such a person. And of course, maybe I’ve just said the wrong thing - in which case I apologize.

I’m assuming that these images were all from photos. If that’s the case, maybe you should try to identify the difference between a real person’s face and a life-size coloured photo of that same person side by side. If I understand you correctly, you would see a good image of the photo, but just vague nothingness for the real person.

The image that came into my mind when I wrote the previous paragraph was one of those cutout boards that you see in funfairs, with holes to push your head through:

I wonder what would happen if the real person and a life-size photo were side by side? Would the real person be a complete stranger?

What would happen if you turn your back, and one of your pals moves the photo to the other side of the hole? What would happen if they actually don’t move the photo - but they tell you they have moved it? My friends would do that.

If someone works in a company with multiple offices, it should be easy to walk through a strange office and single out one person to try and visualize their face. Doing that a few times might help to practice visualizing - like doing reps in the gym. You could try the same trick in the tube, or on a bus - but it might be safer to wear dark glasses if you try that.

I don’t think I understand what you’re saying here. For example, are you saying “I can remember the name of the person that I met two weeks ago for the first (and only) time - but I can’t remember her face”?


“I don’t think I understand what you’re saying here. For example, are you saying “I can remember the name of the person that I met two weeks ago for the first (and only) time - but I can’t remember her face”?”
Yep. That is exactly me.