I know there is a medical condition called "Prosopagnosia" that is described as:

a cognitive disorder of face perception in which the ability to recognize familiar faces, including one's own face (self-recognition), is impaired.

Knowing this, I was wondering if there was also a word/medical condition that would describe:

a cognitive disorder in which the ability to associate a name with a face is impaired.

In this scenario, when the person sees someone, they remember every fact about them (what do they for a living, if they have a significant other, if they have children, etc...) but are incapable of remembering the person name.

The person having this could be described as having "a bad memory for names".

So, does such a medical condition exist? Is there a word for it?


2 Answers 2


recognize familiar faces

The distinction between familiar and unfamiliar faces with the prosopagnosia seems to be more a wiki thing than in clinical or common usage. The defintion does not seem fixed. NINDs defines it as "characterized by the inability to recognize faces" rather than only just familiar faces. So sufferers "use other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes".

The Merck manual provides a different naunce "inability to identify well-known faces, including those of close friends, or to otherwise distinguish individual objects among a class of objects, despite the ability to identify generic facial features and objects."

This phenomenon is distinct from anomic aphasia (also known as amnestic aphasia and nominal aphasia) where there is an impairment of word recall especially nouns and verbs.

Just remember humans and brains are not compartmentalized like computers or objects. Phenomenons that occur due to how the neurons or the lobe is organized. Brain damage are not random too, so common patterns form strokes and injuries result in well known and well described phenomenons. The distinction between naming familiar faces and naming strangers/unknown people would not be a useful clinical distinction. If you think about it, name association exercises of strangers seems too difficult to be used clinically.

  • $\begingroup$ Hey Poidah, thank you for your answer! I believe "anomic aphasia" was the term I was looking for. So maybe you could expendant a little about? Nothing much but just adding some relevant quote from the article so that people would know what "anomic aphasia" is without needed to click? $\endgroup$
    – Ælis
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ I have. Anomic aphasia is an impairment of word recall. It is not specific to names though, so it does not fit your non-familiar naming phenomenon $\endgroup$
    – Poidah
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 18:59

Face-name recognition is a form of paired associates, episodic memory. This type of memory is fairly difficult, even for cognitively normal people (and the ability often declines substantially with age), and thus a poor performance on a face-name task is not typically considered pathologic. Therefore, it doesn't have a specific neurologic term to describe it, which is why you can't find one. Words like aphasia, agnosia, alexia, apraxia (etc.) all denote conditions that should not exist in neurotypical people. HTH.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. I am not the downvoter but claims made in answers here require supporting sources of information cited within. Can you provide some sources to back your claims on face-name recognition, aphasia, agnostic, alexia and apraxia? Especially, can you please cite sources to confirm that ”a poor performance on a face-name task is not typically considered pathologic”? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 11:13

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