Are you “hair blind”?

Some people struggle to recognize faces; others struggle with hair, new study suggests

Just as some people struggle to identify people’s faces, experiencing so-called “face blindness,” others seem to experience the same with hair, New Scientist reports. Past research suggests we recognize faces differently than other objects: while most of us have trouble recognizing upside-down faces, for example, we can recognize other objects, like cars, equally well, according to Brad Duchaine, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. To test whether inversion also hinders hair recognition, Duchaine’s team removed everything but the hair from different faces, and asked 70 volunteers to memorize the hairstyles. When they were asked to indicate which ones were familiar, their performance dropped up to 18 per cent on inverted ones, suggesting our brain uses hair as a guide to recognize people. People who suffer from face blindness, Duchaine says, “tell me that they use hair to recognize people all the time,” he says.

New Scientist