I have this problem, myself. It's embarrassing when someone I work with every day starts talking to me at the grocery store, and I have no idea who they are.
By Jeanna Bryner
updated 2:03 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 29, 2010
Some people can't remember names. Thomas Grüter can't hold onto a face. Instead, this medical doctor, who has what is called prosopagnosia, or face blindness, uses several tricks to avoid an embarrassing social gaffe.
Before 2005, the face blindness disorder was only known from individual case reports and it was thought to be extremely rare. New research by Grüter and his wife, both medical doctors, suggested 2.5 percent of the general population in Germany have the disorder. "So it's millions of people suffering from that, but it wasn't known," Grüter said, adding that he thinks it's reasonable the same would hold across Europe.
Culture can play a role. For instance, in a primitive, mostly illiterate society, a cognitive disorder would only get noticed if it, say, kept a person from becoming an expert archer, the researchers say.