You Don't Look Like Anyone I KnowYou Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers *After reading

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first two thirds of this book were the author using the reader as a therapist and just letting out one long blast of hatred towards her family for being so appalling. Or at least that’s the way she tells it. There was absolutely nothing to do with prosopagnosia even vaguely hinted at.

The last third of the book was about prosopagnosia. Sellers sets herself up as an expert and authority on this neurological disorder that she and I share. Having read Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered, I don’t share her confidence. The author says she can’t recognise people often, but then reading carefully it seems she can recognise people very often but not reliably, which is what I have.

I’ve had lunch with someone I see at least three times a week and thought I recognised them later in the supermarket but wasn’t sure. However I recognised their handbag (I gave it to her) so that was ok. Facial recognition is by a part of the brain that is discrete, that is all other kinds of recognition are not handled by that area.

For the few people I have met who know they are face blind to some degree, there are various other problems, some of which are to do with interpreting facial expressions which look as though the person has Aspergers, but in fact they don’t. Not all of the things we share are negative, all of us are somewhat intellectual and most of us are artistic as well. This leads me to believe that mild prosopagnosia may just be yet another neurotype, a different kind of wiring, personality really, that is less common that the average one, but not rare, one that people are generally unaware of and just say, “I’m never any good at remembering faces”.

One thing that changed for me was that I decided to be open, to ‘come out’ as it were and tell everyone, so that people would stop thinking I was sometimeish or cutting style on them by not speaking to them. However, half the people laugh and say they don’t believe it and the other half look at me like I’m mad and they don’t believe it either. The only people who do believe it are people who know me well and are forever prodding me when they see someone I know and if I don’t recognise them will tell me their name first. So all I’m doing by telling people I’m face blind is making myself look even more eccentric. What to do?

The book wasn’t a hard read and it was well-written but really reading about other people’s dysfunctional families can be extremely boring. Tolstoy’s opening lines of Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” might well be true, but it doesn’t make them interesting. The book started off as a 2, degenerated rapidly to a 1 and redeemed itself ending up on a good, golden, solid five!

Comments

CecilyTwo to one to five? I can’t wait for your review! (Not that that’s meant to pressure you.)

AthenaInteresting reaction to your telling folks about your Face Blindness. I have Nominal Aphasia (difficulty accessing words) & have had the same reaction from all but my closest friends. Neurological conditions seem to trigger enough discomfort to some that they go into denial of both the condition & persons with the condition. Sorry you have to live with it, Petra.

Petra EggsAthena wrote: “Interesting reaction to your telling folks about your Face Blindness. I have Nominal Aphasia (difficulty accessing words) & have had the same reaction from all but my closest friends. Neurological …”

I’ve never heard of nominal aphasia. Is it difficult to live with? Prosopagnosia isn’t but the social consequences of it can be.

PattyMacDotCommaDid you know that this condition caused Jane Goodall a fair bit of trouble in her work with chimps? I can only imagine! http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/pa…

message 5: by Laura
LauraOliver Sacks had that problem, and spoke about it in one of his books, and made me realize that I too had prosopagnosia. I just thought I had a hard time “seeing” people. And when I dont’ recognize them, it feels just weird. And espciallly out of context. Twice now I have met parents of my daughter’s friends out of context (not with their children since they are all in college), and have just had very stilted conversations with them. Makes me feel bad, after the fact, that I didn’t know who they were until I started putting clues together from what they said.

But, back to the actual review. It sounds like you had to slog through quite a bit to get to the best bits. Not sure if I would be willing to do that.

message 6: by Petra Eggs (last edited Mar 09, 2016 07:44PM) rated it 4 stars
Petra EggsPattyMacDotComma wrote: “Did you know that this condition caused Jane Goodall a fair bit of trouble in her work with chimps? I can only imagine! http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/pa…

Yes I did know. Brad Pitt has it too.

Petra EggsLaura wrote: “Oliver Sacks had that problem, and spoke about it in one of his books, and made me realize that I too had prosopagnosia. I just thought I had a hard time “seeing” people. And when I dont’ recognize…”

A better book for finding out much more about face blindness is Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered.

Part of the problem with You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know is that there was no relationship between her upbringing and prosopagnosia. I couldn’t see why they were in the same book.

ElyseHi Petra, I, too, read this book years ago… after reading another book which I felt was even better in the topic.

But… I remember hearing a movie was going to be made of this book. I never heard more — maybe it got canned?

Fascinating disorder if people really have it.
Personally – I’m not aware of ever meeting anyone who has a full blown case of face blindness.

I learned a lot from all the comments in your thread. One after another -I knew none of the things mentioned.

message 9: by David (last edited Mar 10, 2016 02:40AM)
David CerrutiPetra, I’ve enjoyed your occasional comments about prosopagnosia. In my case it is not as severe, but does lead to some embarrassment. Oliver Sacks wrote about it in several of his books. This excerpt is from “Uncle Tungsten:”

Many years later, when I took my first book to an editor at Faber’s, she said, ‘You know, we’ve met before.’

‘I don’t think I remember,’ I said, embarrassed. ‘I can never recognize faces.’

‘You wouldn’t,’ she rejoined. ‘It was many years ago, when I was a student of your mother’s. She was lecturing on breast-feeding that day, and after a few minutes she suddenly broke off, saying, ‘There’s nothing too difficult or embarrassing about breastfeeding.’ She bent down and retrieved a small baby which had been sleeping, concealed behind her desk, and, unwrapping the infant, breastfed it before the class. It was in September 1933, and you were the infant.’

message 10: by Dov
Dov ZellerI really enjoyed your review and the thread. I don’t think I will read the memoir. (You give it four stars, but your review gives me the impression you feel ambivalent at best about the book.)

The first time I read about face blindness it was an essay in a yearly collection of American science writing, maybe a decade ago. 2007 Best American Science Writing 2007 I think.

Someone I knew at the time had a mild case of prosopagnosia. She was a professor, so she struggled a lot. When I told her about the essay I’d read, she began telling me stories of very awkward classroom situations that came about, almost daily, because she couldn’t recognize her students’s faces. It was very challenging for her and she enjoyed telling stories (I think it was nice for her to be able to laugh at something that had for so long been such a source of stress.)

I didn’t know about Jane Goodall and Oliver Sacks! Two of my heroes…

message 11: by Petra Eggs (last edited Mar 10, 2016 05:16AM) rated it 4 stars
Petra EggsElyse wrote: “Fascinating disorder if people really have it….”

So do you think I’m making it up, that I’m delusional or that I’ve got something else and am just saying I have this? That ‘if” kind of bothers me.

Actually, it not fascinating. Not at all. It is a deficit, not a positive.

Petra EggsDavid wrote: “In my case it is not as severe, but does lead to some embarrassment. Oliver Sacks wrote about it in several of his books. This exce…”

You were the baby in 1933? Or I am totally misunderstanding you?

Petra EggsDov wrote: “I don’t think I will read the memoir. (You give it four stars, but your review gives me the impression you feel ambivalent at best about the book….”

Something I really hate is people diagnosing other people with diseases and disorders and she diagnoses her mother as a paranoid schizophrenic because she told her symptoms to a therapist and he said so…. This point is laboured throughout the book. It was one of the things that annoyed me most.

The book, to me, was worth reading only if you wanted to read a dysfunctional-family story from the point of view of a very angry daughter unless you have prosopagnosia and really want to learn more about it. Otherwise it’s a 2 star.

message 14: by David
David CerrutiPetra wrote: ”Or I am totally misunderstanding you?”

Oliver Sacks was born in 1933, and was writing about himself in “Uncle Tungsten.”

message 15: by Petra Eggs (last edited Mar 10, 2016 06:48AM) rated it 4 stars
Petra EggsThanks. Sorry for being so obtuse. Uncle Tungsten is one of the very few Oliver Sacks books I haven’t read, perhaps the only one. It never appealed to me.

message 16: by Reese
ReeseAn engaging and enlightening review!

message 17: by Athena
AthenaPetra X wrote: “I’ve never heard of nominal aphasia. Is it difficult to live with? Prosopagnosia isn’t but the social consequences of it can be. “

It can be when the words won’t come (worse under stress); people I don’t know very well assume I’m stupid or stoned & give me the fish-eye, even tho they know I’m epileptic. I use a lot of mnemonics & tricks to avoid having to ‘reach’ for a word when I’m around strangers so I end up being kinda wordy sometimes.

Petra EggsDifficult, I could see. I know that people lack patience with stutterers or look at them like they are children. Is it related to epilepsy?

message 19: by Athena
AthenaPetra X wrote: “Difficult, I could see. I know that people lack patience with stutterers or look at them like they are children. Is it related to epilepsy?”

It’s related to damage in the temporal lobe & a couple other brain areas. I have Left Temporal Lobe Tonic/Clonic Epilepsy (mouthful!), so for me it’s a result of T/C seizures (grande mal). Epileptic seizures start in particular brain locations & often move out into the rest of the brain; usually the initial location suffers the most damage during seizures so in my case that’s what caused the aphasia (and amnesia, once, which was inexpressibly terrifying). Those make me very good about taking my medication! 😉

Petra EggsI’m glad you take your medication.

message 21: by Athena
AthenaPetra X wrote: “I’m glad you take your medication.”

🙂 Me too! Is Face Blindness simply “one of the many ways God tells us he loves us” (sorry, couldn’t resist the joke), or is it rooted in particular neurology, or do ‘they’ not know yet? I’ve not seen it addressed in the pop neurological journal (Neurology Today) that haunts Dr’s offices, my chief source of neuro info …

Petra EggsLots is known about it but mostly about the sort that develops after a brain injury. Interesting thing about it is that the facial recognition is restricted to one small area of the brain and has nothing to do with any other kind of recognition. To me this would say it is evolutionary and that we might think apes, perhaps even newts, all look alike, but they don’t to each other.

Petra EggsSabah wrote: “I know you said that the majority of the book was like one long blast of hatred and it only became focused on the condition in the last chapter but you’ve given this 4 stars so would you say this is still a book definitely worth reading for those little or basic understanding of face blindness? …”

No. The author, Helen Sellers, is self-obsessed and thinks tends to make her own experiences empirical and thinks that people should follow her advice because it works for her. It’s still good but better is Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered. It dragged for me in the sense that I was only looking for what would apply to me and then it was brilliant.

message 24: by Athena
AthenaPetra X wrote: “Lots is known about it but mostly about the sort that develops after a brain injury. Interesting thing about it is that the facial recognition is restricted to one small area of the brain and has n…”

Interesting. I’ll have to toss out a question to my epilepsy community & see if anyone has had issues with it since it has brain injury sources. Thanks Petra!

Petra EggsAthena wrote: “I’ll have to toss out a question to my epilepsy community & see if anyone has had issues with it since it has brain injury sources….”

This Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained has all the bases covered for brain injury. On the review I wrote of it, is the check list for seeing if you have it to any degree. You might find that useful with the group since a lot of people don’t remember faces well but don’t think anything about it.

message 26: by Athena
AthenaPetra X wrote: “This Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained has all the bases covered for brain injury. On the review I wrote of it, is the check list for seeing if you have it to any degree. You might find that useful with the group…”

Thank you!

message 27: by Erika
ErikaI had never heard of prosopagnosia and can only imagine how challenging it must be particularly for someone who has to deal with a lot of people that they are expected to know by sight. Question: Does prosopagnosia still occur if the person has something very distinctive about his or her face? For example, one blue eye and one green eye, or a beard with a round patch of gray. I ask because I’m interested in how that part of the brain works. For instance, if a person with prosopagnosia knows intellectually that Joe Smith has a beard with a coin-sized portion of gray will that intellectual knowledge aid them in facial recognition?

Petra EggsErika wrote: “Does prosopagnosia still occur if the person has something very distinctive about his or her face? For example, one blue eye and one green eye, or a beard with a round patch of gray. : D…”

How would I know? I don’t know when I haven’t recognised someone! I think there are people I almost always recognise and people I almost never do. But again, how do I know?

message 29: by Erika
ErikaI don’t know…I guess I was just asking a general question about how prosopagnosia functions. I hope I didn’t offend you, not my intent!

Petra EggsOh gosh no, you didn’t offend me. It was a straight answer. I can’t tell you if unusual facial features mean I remember people better, because I don’t know when I haven’t recognised someone. If I did know then I would be kind of recognising them, but I don’t. That’s the difficulty in answering your question. I could say I always remember this particular guy I like because he’s very fat and has a beard and is jolly-looking. But say I have seen him and not recognised him? I wouldn’t know…

message 31: by Erika
ErikaAh, that makes sense.

Petra EggsIt’s a problem! I don’t know what I don’t know. I only it if someone is with me and points it out or I remember later like with Imran (very rare) or people are very cold to me and I can’t think why, then I wonder.

message 33: by Ivonne
Ivonne RoviraMy daughters have autism, and they’re “face blind,” too. I wonder if all autistics have that, or if it’s a coincidence?

Very interesting review — as always — BTW.

Petra EggsIvonne wrote: “My daughters have autism, and they’re “face blind,” too. I wonder if all autistics have that, or if it’s a coincidence?”

I don’t think so. Try reading this Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered. If you have difficulty finding it, I have it as a pdf I am happy to share (since it was shared with me).

message 35: by Cecily
CecilyPetra X wrote: “I don’t know when I haven’t recognised someone!”

Shades of Donald Rumsfeld and his unknown unknowns. So frustrating for you, but I guess there is some consolation in knowing there’s a reason.

Petra EggsRumsfield was quite good on that.
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