Brad Pitt has face blindness, he said in a recent interview.
"So many people hate me because they think I'm disrespecting them," he said. The interview was for the June/July issue of Esquire. "I am going to get it tested," Pitt added.
The technical term for the condition that may be affecting Pitt is prosopagnosia, which stems from the Greek prosopon, for face, and agnosia, for ignorance. The condition apparently causes Pitt a significant amount of social discomfort.
"I swear to God, I took one year where I just said, This year, I'm just going to cop to it and say to people, 'Okay, where did we meet?' But it just got worse. People were more offended," said the 49-year-old star of the zombie movie World War Z. "Every now and then, someone will give me context, and I'll say, 'Thank you for helping me.' But I piss more people off. You get this thing, like, 'You're being egotistical. You're being conceited.' But it's a mystery to me, man. I can't grasp a face and yet I come from such a design/aesthetic point of view."
Prosopagnosia may be more common than people once thought, according to research performed in 2006. Until a few years ago, only about 100 cases of prosopagnosia had been documented, Ken Nakayama, a professor of psychology at Harvard told Time Magazine. But the 2006 study revealed that about one in 50 Americans is affected by Prosopagnosia.
"That's huge," says Dr. Thomas Grüter of the Institute of Human Genetics in Münster, an author of the paper and himself a prosopagnosic. "It was a real surprise."
For people with prosopagnosia, symptoms vary. People with the condition have no trouble distinguishing eyes from noses, or recognizing that a face is a face. The tricky thing is to recognize the same set of features when seeing them a second time. Some cases are extreme enough that people with the condition cannot recognize their own face in the mirror. Gaylen Howard, 40, of Boulder, Colorado, told Time Magazine that when she stands in front of a mirror in a crowded restroom, she makes a funny face. That way, she can "tell which one is me."
The study also found that people with face blindness tended to have relatives with the condition at a higher frequency than normal. The condition is likely caused by a defect in a single, dominant gene. So if a parent has prosopagnosia, there is a 50 percent chance of the child having the condition.
The social stigma attached to face blindness is that people with the condition may be misjudged as lazy or uncaring. As for Pitt, apparently the condition has caused him enough of a headache that he doesn't like going out all that much, according to his Esquire interview.
"That's why I stay at home," Pitt said. "You meet so many damned people. And then you meet 'em again."