A new approach to diagnosing and researching developmental prosopagnosia: Excluded cases are impaired too

Edwin J. Burns*, Elizabeth Gaunt, Betiel Kidane, Lucy Hunter, Jaylea Pulford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


Developmental prosopagnosia is characterized by severe, lifelong difficulties when recognizing facial identity. Unfortunately, the most common diagnostic assessment (Cambridge Face Memory Test) misses 50–65% of individuals who believe that they have this condition. This results in such excluded cases’ absence from scientific knowledge, effect sizes of impairment potentially overestimated, treatment efficacy underrated, and may elicit in them a negative experience of research. To estimate their symptomology and group-level impairments in face processing, we recruited a large cohort who believes that they have prosopagnosia. Matching prior reports, 56% did not meet criteria on the Cambridge Face Memory Test. However, the severity of their prosopagnosia symptoms and holistic perception deficits were comparable to those who did meet criteria. Excluded cases also exhibited face perception and memory impairments that were roughly one standard deviation below neurotypical norms, indicating the presence of objective problems. As the prosopagnosia index correctly classified virtually every case, we propose it should be the primary method for providing a diagnosis, prior to subtype categorization. We present researchers with a plan on how they can analyze these excluded prosopagnosia cases in their future work without negatively impacting their traditional findings. We anticipate such inclusion will enhance scientific knowledge, more accurately estimate effect sizes of impairments and treatments, and identify commonalities and distinctions between these different forms of prosopagnosia. Owing to their atypicalities in visual perception, we recommend that the prosopagnosia index should be used to screen out potential prosopagnosia cases from broader vision research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Early online date2 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2022


  • Apperceptive
  • Associative
  • Criteria
  • Diagnosing
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Prosopamnesia
  • Single-case analysis


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