Plagued by prosopagnosia, corporate lawyer can’t recognize his employees
Posted Dec 16, 2013 7:40 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Lawyer Mark Herrmann supervises about 150 employees in his role as vice president and chief compliance officer at Aon, but he rarely recognizes them—in the visual sense of the word.
Herrmann suffers from prosopagnosia, the term for an inability to recognize faces. He does recognize his own face, as well as the people he sees often. But he has trouble identifying people at parties, characters in movies, and some co-workers at the office. He writes about his malady in a New York Times Opinionator column.
Herrmann recalls a particularly embarrassing moment after he joined a large law firm as an associate. The managing partner dropped by his office to greet him on the first day of work. The next day at work, Herrmann recalls introducing himself to a stranger in the gym locker room as part of an effort to meet new colleagues. The stranger turned out to be the managing partner.
Herrmann says he used to blame his facial recognition problem on inattentiveness until he read a Time magazine article about the disability in 2006. He now recognizes he has a hereditary condition. He’s not alone; Time estimated that 5 million people in the United States have prosopagnosia. Earlier this year, Brad Pitt said he has face blindness.
“Brad Pitt!” Herrmann writes. “If I ever met him, I’d love to swap some prosopagnosia war stories with him. The trouble, of course, is that even if I saw him on the street, I wouldn’t recognize him.”