Thoughts regarding face-blindness in Asperger’s

I used to be a very poor face reader, perhaps somewhere in the bottom decile. I am now approximately one standard deviation above average, and this is probably due to (in the following order) 1. practice reading faces according to Koanic’s theories, 2. learning Game principles from Heartiste and r/K from Anonymous Conservative, 3. reading popsci books about body language and facial expressions, and 4. developing several theories of my own in these areas. Even if all these theories are complete bullshit, there has been an objective benefit to obsessive engagement with them. My overall social intelligence has increased from a level suggesting retardation to a level significantly above average. My qualitative assessment of my own abilities puts me at about the 80th percentile, due to the conjunction of newfound instincts (like face-reading) with a deep intellectual understanding of social dynamics.

I used to have great difficulty distinguishing between certain types of faces, to such an extent that I would confuse new acquaintances with each other and even forget that I’d previously met them. Recently, Lorien posted a test for this skill and I scored a 63, approximately one standard deviation above average (according to the testing site, “better than 7 out of 10”). This was after about five years of practicing edenic face-reading.

I also used to be very bad at reading emotions from faces. In high school, I did one of those eye-reading social intelligence tests as a freshman in high school and got a flat zero. I only answered two questions out of 25 and got them both wrong (mistaking “contempt” for “happy” and mistaking “pity” for “sad”). I just took another such test and scored 28/36, putting me in the 64th percentile.

Similarly, Polymath did an informal experiment to explore whether Altrugenics posters or Apricity posters were better at guessing which morphs corresponded to which professions. Though the sample size was small, it suggested that face-reading practitioners (Altrugenics) were better at this task.

I believe we’re looking at a situation similar to the development of language in humans. Psychologists and neurologists take it as given, generally, that all humans develop the ability to understand spoken language without any formal training, at about the same age. This is a normal part of early development, assuming the child is not somehow prevented from listening to other humans speaking. This is not true for reading and writing, which generally need to be taught. If a person isn’t taught to read and write, they aren’t going to pick it up instinctually*.

Adding to this commonsense understanding, there was a very interesting experiment accidentally performed in Nicaragua:

Before the 1970s, there was no deaf community in Nicaragua. Deaf people were largely isolated from each other and mostly used simple home sign systems and gesture (‘mímicas’) to communicate with their families and friends, though there were several cases of idioglossia among deaf siblings.[3] The conditions necessary for a language to arise occurred in 1977, when a center for special education established a program initially attended by 50 deaf children. The number of students at the school (in the Managua neighborhood of San Judas) grew to 100 by 1979, the year of the Sandinista revolution.

In 1980, a vocational school for deaf adolescents was opened in the area of Managua called Villa Libertad. By 1983 there were over 400 deaf students enrolled in the two schools. Initially, the language program emphasized spoken Spanish and lipreading, and the use of signs by teachers was limited to fingerspelling (using simple signs to sign the alphabet). The program achieved little success, with most students failing to grasp the concept of Spanish words.

The children remained linguistically disconnected from their teachers, but the schoolyard, the street, and the school bus provided fertile ground for them to communicate with each other. By combining gestures and elements of their home-sign systems, a pidgin-like form and a creole-like language rapidly emerged. They were creating their own language. This “first-stage” pidgin has been called Lenguaje de Signos Nicaragüense (LSN) and is still used by many who attended the school at this time.

Staff at the school, unaware of the development of this new language, saw the children’s gesturing as mime and as a failure to acquire Spanish. Unable to understand what the children were saying to each other, they asked for outside help. In June 1986, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education contacted Judy Kegl, an American Sign Language linguist from MIT. As Kegl and other researchers began to analyze the language, they noticed that the young children had taken the pidgin-like form of the older children to a higher level of complexity, with verb agreement and other conventions of grammar. This more complex sign language is now known as Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua (ISN).

Nicaraguan Sign Language

I believe the development of face-reading ability in aspies is similar in nature. This suggests that 1) aspies are born with the ability to read faces, 2) development is disabled somehow by an environmental factor (comparable to deafness), and 3) this ability can be developed synthetically in later life through engagement and tangential learning. Arguably, my face-reading abilities are now as nuanced as most high-functioning adult whites, although still much lower than my IQ would predict. It is also likely that a battery of tests would show extremely asynchronous development, as is typically the case for autodidacts in any field of study.

Furthermore, this indicates that face reading has strong similarities with language use, potentially including grammar. I believe it is subject to most or all of the rules of symbolic communication, including abstract principles like Sapir-Whorf. This means that relatively static facial features (bone structure) and dynamic facial expressions are interpreted in the same way as spoken language, with both semantics and prosody. It also means that we can use facial expressions to help us categorize information that we take in, in the same way that a child who can’t distinguish between cats and dogs will learn the words “cat” and “dog” and thereafter distinguish between them effortlessly. This may even be true of facial bone structure, in the same way that our native grammar influences the way we think.

*I may be an exception to this rule, but I’ll have to ask my dad to recall the details because I don’t remember precisely how it happened.


About Aeoli Pera

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15 Responses to Thoughts regarding face-blindness in Asperger’s

  1. Son of Distant Trebizond says:

    Instantaneous face-recognition is a trait of hierarchical-violence-savants.
    This lonely aspie genius recognises people by their auras:

    • Son of Distant Trebizond says:

      The obverse of your observation that face recognition is emergent and learnable like language is that non-linguistic, non-facial communication is broadly usable amongst distantly related species. Observe and spend enough time around wild animals and this becomes quite perceptible. That is, one gets a synesthetic ‘sense impression’ of a creature’s mood, of its aspect, and of its personality. Usually doesn’t work w humans because they rely on emergent abstract systems for communication so the ‘frequencies’ are flooded. An intent gaze or eye contact mean either predation or imminent struggle in hierarchical social mammals.

  2. Lazer says:

    I concur with your reading thing. Did you notice any other skills that came easier? I mainly ask because I notice when the saps start pinging you as Aspie its usually after you did some skill at expert level, without the expert level social rank.

  3. Nottuh says:

    I also might be an exception to the general rule that people need to be taught how to read and write. I just asked my parents and they said I used to form letters out of play dough at a very young age and that when I was taken for a drive at the age of two, I read “dry cleaner” aloud as we passed by a dry cleaning place. I say this not to boast, but just because my case might be of interest to you.

  4. Santoculto says:

    I don’t think anonymous conservative have a great theory about r/k “strategies”. I already refute him sometimes.

  5. Santoculto says:

    I think I’m the opposite, more “psychotic spectrum” than autistic in this case of reading faces or understand non verbal signals but because I’m too concerned about it my over-analysis often results in hypo-efficiency.

    In terms of obsessiveness I’m quite “autistic-line”.

  6. Santoculto says:

    ”Recently, Lorien posted a test for this skill and I scored a 63, approximately one standard deviation above average (according to the testing site, “better than 7 out of 10”). This was after about five years of practicing edenic face-reading.”

    I also scored 63.

    Well, aspergers TEND TO DO bad in this tests, we are talking about avg’s and not universalities: every aspie will be bad in facial recognition.

    Other factor is that when we are doing a test we tend to become concentrated in this task while in the real world your mind, specifically, may can be more enphasised in non-social things, even because facial recognition is also a pattern recognition, isn’t*

    • Santoculto says:

      Do you are good to facial similarities*

      Recently i found a great similarity between the hungarian-jewish descent Rachel Weisz and the american gymnast Maggie Nichols.

      Often people here confuse me and my older brother but it’s clear we are not almost identical. Some bizarre patterns. For example, do you believe this two brazilian actresses are facially identical*

      Many people here believe yes, they are identical.

  7. Santoculto says:

    I don’t understand what facial blindness mean, do you can’t associate facial expressions with their adjectives*


    if i’m laughing and you’re seeing my face, your brain can’t associate this specific facial expression with the correspondent adjective ”happy” face*

  8. bicebicebice says:

    The only side effect to having your child treated by an Edenist will be little sonny boy mumbling about “saps gonna sap” in his sleep.

    There is also a downside to this.

  9. Pellegri says:

    Apparently I’m straight up potato at facial recognition–scored a 44, way down in the 10th decile.

    Guess I gotta get me some Edenics software installed on the ol’ brain to fix that. If I wanted to, which I really don’t; I recognize people I’m emotionally invested in recognizing just fine.

  10. M M says:

    Scored 67. Not bad!

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