Yardley, Lucy, McDermott, Lisa, Pisarski, Stephanie, Duchaine, Brad and Nakayama, Ken
Psychosocial consequences of developmental prosopagnosia: a problem of recognition
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 65, (5), . (doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.03.013).
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To provide the first systematic in-depth description of the consequences of developmental prosopagnosia (DP; ‘face blindness’) for psychosocial functioning and occupational disability, in order to determine what kind of professional intervention may be needed.
Semi-structured telephone interviews were carried out with 25 people whose self-reports of face recognition problems were confirmed by impaired scores on the Cambridge Face Recognition Test. Thematic analysis was used to inductively identify and understand common psychosocial consequences of DP.
All participants described recurrent and sometimes traumatic social interaction difficulties caused by recognition problems, such as failing to recognize close friends, work colleagues, and family members. These problems often led to chronic anxiety about offending others and feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and failure. Most participants described some degree of fear and avoidance of social situations in which face recognition was important, including family and social gatherings, and meetings at work. Long-term consequences could include dependence on others, a restricted social circle, more limited employment opportunities, and loss of self-confidence.
The potential for negative psychosocial consequences and occupational disability posed by DP is as great as that posed by conditions which are currently afforded professional recognition and support, such as stuttering and dyslexia. Wider recognition of the problems prosopagnosia can cause could reduce anxiety about social interaction difficulties by making it easier to explain and justify recognition problems to other people, including employers. Greater professional awareness could facilitate detection and referral of those requiring support with coping with social interactions.
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