I've known for awhile that my brain works differently than other peoples', especially when it comes to recognizing things. Well, a month ago I put a name to a condition. I have a moderate case of what is called prosopagnosia, also called "face blindness."
Here's a definition of it: "an impairment in the recognition of faces. It is often accompanied by other types of recognition impairments (place recognition, car recognition, facial expression of emotion, etc.) though sometimes it appears to be restricted to facial identity.... One of the telltale signs of prosopagnosia is great reliance on non-facial information such as hair, gait, clothing, voice, and other information."
That's me. I recognize people my their hair and how they walk, more than their faces. Here are some examples:
* I have a good friend who got her haircut. I walked into a room, and saw her from the side, and didn't know who she was. Then she started walking, and I immediately recognized her.
* I had met with a student five or six times during a semester, and then she changed her hair to blonde. She sat down at my office hours, and I introduced myself to her since I thought I had met her before.
* I can scan a classroom of up to about 50 people and know instantly who changed their hair since the last class session.
It's not just faces, but also voices. I just don't recognize voices on the phone, and instead I usually guess who it is by the words they use or when they call. This actually was a bit of a problem before caller id because I would offend friends and family members who called by not knowing who they were.
I'm still thinking through how this affects my work as a sociologist. A clue: I don't remember any details about other peoples' or my own research, but I remember patterns of logic or data analysis. This is probably why I tend toward interdisciplinary work, it comes naturally to take how work is done in one field and import it into another.