People in Suburbia

Forgetful Guy

Posted on: January 1, 2010

I took a college class in project management, in which students worked with 3 or 4 others on a small group project. There were 4 people in my group: myself, a Sudanese girl, an older guy with red hair and thick red beard, and a young male who I like to call Forgetful Guy.

There were two incidents that make Forgetful Guy stand out:

  • Red-hair guy showed up in class one day, and Forgetful Guy immediately comments “hey, I really like the new haircut, it looks good on you“. Red-hair guy wasn’t really sure how to respond, but he said “I guess you could say I had some hair cut. Did you mean something lower?“, hinting at his face and neck. Forgetful Guy stared for a few moment, evidently looking for something, but not finding it. “I shaved my beard if that’s what you meant.” “Oh! Right! Hey, you look pretty good clean-shaven.
  • During a break, Sudanese girl left the class, probably to take a phonecall. A completely differently Sudanese girl walks in, and asks Forgetful Guy if anyone was using the empty computer next to him, that she needed to print something out. Forgetful Guy makes a comment that our project will be due in a few weeks, but we can put it off until the last minute since we already have things finished. The new girl looks confused, but she makes conversation anyway, asking Forgetful Guy what degree he’s going for, they get chatty. The new girl prints her paper and leaves. The original Sudanese girl comes back, and Forgetful Guy asks her if she changed her jacket. She hadn’t. It dawned on him that he’d just mistaken an entirely different person for someone he’d been working with every week for the past 13 weeks.

Forgetful Guy has problems remembering what people look like (a phenomenon known as Prosopamnesia). He is wholly capable of describing faces, recognizing most people, but has a tremendous amount of difficulty picking out a particular face from a collection of pictures. He has a habit of confusing two people who resemble each other in some superficial way (the Sudanese Girl and her doppelganger were dark-skinned, thin, and wore glasses, but otherwise wholly dissimilar).

Its not just faces, but Forgetful Guy is frequently unable to remember names, and is usually incapable of identifying celebrities or naming actors from a movie he’s just seen. He’s occasionally unable to recognize people who change their appearance in some non-trivial way, such as coloring their hair.

Forgetful Guy explained that he’s neither bothered nor feels impaired — its more of a quirk. He’s usually capable of recognizing people who he works with on a daily basis.

I took off my glasses for him and asked if he still recognized me. He commented “at first, maybe not. But after a while, yes.” How do you mean, I enquired. “Your voice is really shrill.



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