A Super Useless Super Hero
The Positive Framing of Super Recognition
This article explores the rhetoric and discourses surrounding the face recognition spectrum, from total face blindness, or prosopagnosia, on one end, to superrecognition on the other. The spectrum places these conditions in opposition; I consider the unexpected experiences that people with these conditions share. I focus largely on the emergence of super recognition as a category, thinking about its associated superpower rhetoric and will contrast it with the history of prosopagnosia and its framing as a disability. For many, face blindness isn’t all bad, and super recognition isn’t all super; there are losses to placing and studying them in sharp opposition. The two extreme ends of the face recognition spectrum certainly have vastly different social, interpersonal, and emotional implications for those on either end and for those around them. People with prosopagnosia face very serious challenges that differ significantly in scope to what supers have to contend with. However, despite the fundamental differences, people on both extremes lack the expected correspondence between recognizing someone’s face and having a relationship with her that characterize normative facial recognition. At both ends, face recognition fails to index the relationship of the recognizer to the recognized: it provides little to no information about the emotional connection between the two.