The other evening after climbing I stopped in the grocery store on the way home for a few things, and while in the bread aisle, a couple stopped me to say hi. They recognized me a) from the gym where we all climbed, and b) from my picture on my braiding website
, which they had just been browsing recently.
It caught me totally by surprise (albeit pleasantly so), and we chatted braids for a few minutes before parting ways.
Now, it's pretty unusual that random people (not going to cons) would know me from my braiding site before greeting me in person, but not that unusual that someone would greet me because they'd seen me elsewhere. But it takes me by surprise every single time, because it never happens to me. That is, it is unusual for me to recognize someone from one casual context of my life when I see them in a different context, and I cannot once think of a time when I have recognized someone in person after having only seen them in a photo.
[Just to clarify, the sort of situation I'm thinking of involves a person I do not know well and likely have not formally met, although I may have seen or even spoken to them before, and I am seeing them in a new context that I did not expect to see them in.]
I do not consider myself to have face-blindness, although I sometimes wonder if it's more that I've trained myself out of it. I try to look carefully at people and pick out features - the shape of their smile; the slant of their bone or muscle structure; the way they carry themselves; their speech patterns; or the style of their hair (yes, this last one is less than reliable and does have its own obvious problems). I explicitly look at their face if we're having a conversation or just spend time looking (not staring) at people around me when I'm in a group. Looking at people from a variety of angles is helpful, as many of the specific details that I use to identify them are only visible from a select perspective. Which is, I believe, a big part of my problem with photographs. Pictures show a single, static perspective. If the picture is a posed one, then it shows features which may not be regularly present in person (an intentional smile, for example). If I know I am supposed to match a picture with a person (someone I am meeting from online, for example), I can generally do so quite easily, but there is still the moment of confluence, where I have two distinct, separate people-images in my head - the one from the picture and the one sitting in front of me - and I need to explicitly tell my brain "these two person-entries can be merged into one."
Interestingly, I don't usually have this problem with screen characters (although a cast of older, dark-haired, white men is usually confusing for a while), and I think that's because part of the production's entire purpose is to create a recognizeable character. They will style the hair uniquely and/or consistently, for example, or otherwise enhance the subtle identifying marks that I tend to work by and make sure they are present in every scene.
Not recognizing people (in or out of context) seems to be not at all an uncommon thing, as I've heard many of my acquaintances speak of similar (and many who have it far worse, even to actual disability level). I've grown used to it in myself, so I'm not really bothered when I notice it, and have gotten used to apologizing briefly for not remembering a name, a context, a conversation, or even that I've seen them before. But it must not be an uncommon thing to HAVE this recognition skill, either, because of the countless number of times someone HAS recognized me from somewhere else (and I rarely recognize them back).
What is your experience? Do you get people recognizing you more often than you do in return, or vice versa? What are some mental methods you use to commit people to memory?