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

Prosopagnosia is supposed to be a rare neurological condition. But it isn’t. And I’m not even sure it is a ‘condition’ and not just part of a personality type.

Recognising faces is on a continuum from extreme non-recognition to the super-recognisers employed by, for instance, the police on Oxford St. in London to catch shoplifters. I am well below the average, you could say I have prosopagnosia.

I’ve read in a friend’s review that she can’t believe someone could go through all their life and not know that they can’t recognise people. But you can, just not always and not the same people. You think you have a bad memory for faces and you tell people that and then they tell you almost always how they can’t remember names (can anyone?)

When I tell my customers I might not recognise them again (as I have the last few years since I found out about prosopagnosia since I hope people will then not be quite rude to me as they think that is what I am being to them) and talk about it, about once a month or so one will tell me of their exact same problem. I have noticed that it goes along with an introvert/extrovert (no balance) personality, not being able to read people well, being artistic, intelligent and too blunt.

We don’t all share all of these characteristics, but it does seem the people I know do share most of these. Perhaps we don’t have neurological deficits as much as we share a personality type that is ‘diagnosed’ instead of accepted as another variety of normal? It’s not as if we live any differently. We find it harder to make friends for sure, but we aren’t friendless, we have careers, we marry, we have children. We just don’t always know who you are even if we did a few hours earlier.

All of the people I have met who have prosopagnosia say, as I do, that it comes and goes. That is part of the problem. You don’t know who you aren’t going to recognise next. I’ve left my ex-husband at the airport, but never any other time did I not recognise him. My friend I lunch with a few times a week I’ve failed to recognise later in the day. This makes people think you are cutting style on them, that you are sometimeish and snobbish and only speak if you feel like it. But you don’t know to say hello because you don’t know you knew them.

I lost one very good customer, a very wealthy man (best friend is the Aga Khan, seriously). He would turn up every six months or so and buy hundreds of dollars worth of books. I didn’t say hello to him the last time he was in and he didn’t believe a word I said and was very nasty to me and told me he would never ever buy another book from me. He hasn’t either.

So I’m interested to read this book from the prosopagnosia point of view. From the disfunctional family angle? Not so much, I had my own and like dreams, hearing about other people’s abusive family can be a little tedious.

Comments

message 1: by Daren
DarenInteresting. Is is just faces, or for example does Stirling Archer not look familiar each time you see my avatar picture? Does it effect images or logos? Do they remain recognisable to you?
BTW, I like to goat boat avatar.

Petra EggsJust real faces. Nothing else. Goat water is the soup local men drink before a hot date that might require fortitude.

I had to look up Stirling Archer. Not being American neither the face nor the description meant anything to me. Sorry!

message 3: by Daren
DarenHa, yes he is just a secret agent cartoon character… but he is in disguise in my avatar, you know… with the moustache.

I can see how it would be challenging in social and business situations. Anyone who holds a grudge after it is explained is unreasonable, surely?

Petra EggsThey think it is an excuse. They think I didn’t acknowledge them out of rudeness, because I couldn’t be bothered as I don’t think they are important enough or something. Around here we call that attitude ‘sometimeish’ and no one likes to be a victim of it.

My bff and my son are really good and tell me who people are when they know I should recognise them and obviously don’t. When I mistake someone for someone else, they won’t laugh at me but just tell me who they really are.

message 5: by [deleted user]
I saw something of kind mentioned on Hannibal, the tv serial but that was something else and worse. The patient just couldn’t tell faces apart. They all seem same to him and all the time.

message 6: by Fiona
FionaI’m so pleased to hear this has a name. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I have this problem. I have to meet someone new several times before I have any hope of recognising them and even then, it has to be in context or I’m stuck. If I don’t see them for a while, it’s back to square one. Is it possible to read the book and enjoy it while avoiding the dysfunctional family stuff, Petra?

Petra EggsFiona wrote: “I’m so pleased to hear this has a name. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I have this problem….”

I don’t know, I haven’t read it yet! It’s on my ‘to read’ shelf. I have the book though. In fact I often have it in the shop but it sells…

KwoomacWow, I’m pretty sure I have this. once, a car stopped to let me cross the street. I waved a quick thanks. Driver beeped. It was my husband and I didn’t realize it til my friend told me. I’ve always thought I was flaky.

Petra EggsKwoomac wrote: “Wow, I’m pretty sure I have this. once, a car stopped to let me cross the street. I waved a quick thanks. Driver beeped. It was my husband and I didn’t realize it til my friend told me. I’ve alway…”

If you don’t recognise people regularly (or you suspect you don’t as they say things to you like ‘remember me’ or whatever) then you probably do. If it was just the once… your self-diagnosis might have been correct!

message 10: by Jan
Jan RiceIt’s on a continuum, some worse than others, and it’s said to go along with “not having a sense of direction.”

Apart from not recognizing people I’ve met, I’ve also greeted people I think I know but don’t, which is also embarrassing.

message 11: by Lyn
Lyn ElliottI’m on the other side of the spectrum for both faces and names (though would not pass as a police recogniser) and it’s good to learn that there really are great differences between people. I wonder if it follows a bell curve rather than a line? I suspect that the so-called asberger’s spectrum is similar too. Interesting how words shape how we see things.

message 12: by Ivonne (last edited Sep 26, 2015 06:11PM)
Ivonne RoviraProsopagnosia is extremely common with people with autism. Both my daughters have it, one more than the other. They can remember faces, but only of people they’ve seen dozens of times. They’re even worse with names than faces.

message 13: by Ivonne
Ivonne RoviraPetra X wrote: “They think it is an excuse. They think I didn’t acknowledge them out of rudeness, because I couldn’t be bothered as I don’t think they are important enough or something. Around here we call that at…”

People will scoff at prosopagnosia, so instead tell them that your eyesight has gone to hell and you didn’t see them. They’ll buy that.

Petra EggsI don’t think they would, I don’t wear glasses and I’m not exactly a little old lady. Nope, I will just have to put up with the scoffing, and educate people!

message 15: by Fiona
FionaI just go with the flow. If someone greets me and clearly knows me, I just follow their lead and chat as best I can. It’s fine if I’m on my own but totally embarrassing if I’m with someone who expects an introduction. It’s interesting that it’s a feature of autism and Asperger’s as those are both on a continuum too.

Petra EggsI can introduce people some of the time because I can recognise most people most of the time. It’s just I can’t reliably recognise anyone all the time. This summer I had to pick my son up at a cafe on his return from law school and I thought it was him so I called out but… it was a stranger and very embarrassing.

message 17: by Kwoomac
KwoomacPetra X wrote: “Kwoomac wrote: “Wow, I’m pretty sure I have this. once, a car stopped to let me cross the street. I waved a quick thanks. Driver beeped. It was my husband and I didn’t realize it til my friend told…”

message 18: by Kwoomac
KwoomacHa!

message 19: by Jan
Jan RiceProsopagnosia is reasonably considered pathological and certainly the autism-spectrum disorders as well, and maybe they sometimes contribute to or are associated with introversion, but introversion per se isn’t pathological–not when there are about as many introverts as there are those on the other side of the spectrum. That’s like saying males represent normality and females pathology: it suggests a power differential as to who’s doing the defining or a bias in society’s view.

Since we are all book people, I’d expect on average we tilt toward introversion. Something like that may account for the traits Petra notices among her friends.

Petra EggsI didn’t say we were introverted, I said a trait we shared was that we were both extraverted and introverted, that we had no balance.

As far as autism goes, please, we don’t recognise people reliably, I don’t think there is a necessity for going around ‘diagnosing’ that we are all sorts of pathologically disturbed/disordered or anything else.

message 21: by Petra Eggs (last edited Sep 27, 2015 09:47PM) rated it 4 stars
Petra EggsJan wrote: “Prosopagnosia is reasonably considered pathological and certainly the autism-spectrum disorders as well, and maybe they sometimes contribute to or are associated with introversion, but introversion…”

I didn’t say we were introverted, I said a trait we shared was that we were both extraverted and introverted, that we had no balance.

Pathology is a disease process. I don’t think any of us think of ourselves like that (or autistic of any kind either). This case study has some but not much relationship to me and the people I know and I suspect the people who have commented as we all have difficulty recognising people only sometimes. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mention autism, asperger’s and says quite clearly, no pathology.

message 22: by Jan
Jan RiceYou didn’t mention it, but it was in some of the comments.
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