"All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces"
-Mad World by Roland Orzabal

What if a humanlike species can actually wear out their faces and need to change them?
Possibly by stealing from humans.
But: How would they recognize each other?
Since they have every day/week new faces is impossible to tell by the face.
Which forms of recognition could they use else?


4 Answers 4


Faces do not matter

Such a species wouldn't find faces important. If, during all your species' history, you only heard of face-shifters, you would be inclined to be surprised by the ones whose faces did not change much.

They could recognize themselves with others features. Natural marks, tattoos, shape of their ear, smell, pheromones... You can basically find whatever distinctive trait you like and make it special!

PS: Ask yourself, how do blind people recognize other people?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ good point about the blind people! Haven't thought of that. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ Also, face-blindness to varying degrees is fairly common. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Jannis I'm honored you chose my answer to be accepted, but it is usual to wait 24h after asking a question to let people from different time zones the opportunity to answer ! $\endgroup$
    – Don Pablo
    Sep 12, 2018 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Matthew Daly's described condition is called prosopagnosia. When learning about it in a psychology course, my first thought was that it's a little ridiculous that we have a brain that only functions on faces, but it turns out that prosopagnosic folk can also have issues with identifying other individuals based on features (eg, bird watchers $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 17:07

The face is not the only thing that makes you distinguishable

People would adapt rather quickly to this. If you have lived in a household with a staircase you can hear throughout the house, when somebody walks on, after a while you can hear who walks up the stairs at the moment.

Pattern recognition is amazing in human brains.

You can tell twins from one another by how they walk or stand even from a distance.

Voices also have a certain uniqueness to them.

There are many, many, many things, people can be identified with. The face is just the most simple thing, that you can easily see and distinguish, even if you did not get to know the person well. It is just more convenient and by far sufficient, but not a necessary identifier.

  • $\begingroup$ > There are many, many, many things< which things? $\endgroup$
    – user55267
    Sep 12, 2018 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Jannis i just gave examples, voice, stance, usual mode and details of walking, articulation, smell etc. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ I thought of this sentence you know more things, minor things which are too random or minor to tell... sry $\endgroup$
    – user55267
    Sep 12, 2018 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Jannis there is basically an infite amount of traits you could come up with, but DonPablo made a good point: "ask yourself, how do blind people recognize other people?" $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ Supporting anecdote: My wife can identify me in a crowded room, where she can't see the upper half of my body through the crowd, solely from how I walk. She identified my mother's first cousin (her professor as it turned out) as being related to me based on shared characteristics of stride and hand motions while talking. I'm not observant enough to catch this sort of stuff, but some people are. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2018 at 21:49

Tell each other their names when they meet

This could be done by literally saying ones name instead of "hello" or by creating a unique sign (like in sign language) and signing ones own name instead of shaking hands.

In some cultures (like parts of India) it's custom to tell your name as greeting, but in most parts of the world, this would be very strange and suspicious.

The signing, on the other hand, can be written off as dusting off your clothes or some coincidental gesture. Most "normal" humans would extend their hand to shake or bow (like in Japan), so Face Swappers could recognize each other without standing out like a sore thumb.

Wear something unique

They could wear a necklace, a set of differently shaped earings or braid their hair in a unique way and create a visual clue to their name like a nametag. A tatoo on the neck or hand can also serve as name tag.

Wearing the same jewelry is not suspicious for most people, but never changing your overly complicated hairstyle might be hard to keep up over many years, especially if your youthfull Mohican hairstyle doesn't fit your 60 years old body anymore.

Smell and other senses

Many animals have a better nose than humans and recognize their family members by smell.

In some cultures people hug or do air kisses as greetings. There you could smell the other party without being too suspicious. It gets more complicated in buisness meetings or in cultures like Japan where physical contact is avoided as much as possible.


Human brain is amazing at pattern recognition. And very adaptable at changing patterns. For example: if you live every day with almost naked persons (inside a tribe lost in the Amazonas, for example), you will recognize the persons (among other things) for the details over their bodies.

If they start wearing clothes, then your brain will adapt to a new main pattern identification schema (the faces). If they start wearing masks, your will still be able to identify them (after a little training in the new identification patterns) for their height, voices, position, body movements, even smells. Even the way they stand.


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