What reactions do you have to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat? Can something be taken away from this case study and be used for understanding other situations? Do you think this case study could have been developed as a single-subject design instead (or that a similar case could be treated as a single-subject design in the future)?

(a digital copy of the article is posted on the Paper 3 page)

35 thoughts on “SQ8”

  1. After reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I began to question how genuine the story was because of how unique the situation sounded and how it was handled. Dr. P was given the ability to see with his hearing, but if the hearing was interrupted, so was his “eyesight”. In this particular case, it would be beneficial for Dr. P to not become informed about what exactly was going on inside his brain, because that may additionally cause more problems as he still bares with the ones he has. Furthermore, it would be quite difficult to conduct a single-subject design as suggested “treatment” may actually harm Dr. P even more. He has his ways of coping and is most comfortable with hearing, so having a single-subject design with a baseline and intervention may cause further dilemmas. That being said, depending on the situation and its intensity, this does not necessarily mean that it may not be useful for other studies.

    1. Hi Jayanti,

      I agree with the idea that intervening might result in more problems instead of actually improving Dr. P’s ability to perceive. It would be better for him to not receive treatment as long as he is comfortable with hearing to “see” things.

      1. My initial reaction to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was one of surprise. I found it odd that Dr. Sacks did not continue his case study of Dr. P to formulate possible treatments if not further investigate Dr. P’s illnesss. I also found it interesting that Mr. P did not seem bothered by his increasing inability to recognize and identify objects and people. An experiment could be designed for individuals with the same illness as Dr. P who are actually aware of it and want to treat it by testing different senses and how they change upon the advancement of the illness. For example the way Mr.P’s sense of hearing helped him live his daily life was a potential solution to his illness. Other senses such as touch and smell could be tested to find if they improved or equalized the quality of life for those living with a condition similar to Mr.P’s and those without.

    2. Hello Jayanti,
      I agree with you that it would be quite difficult to conduct a single-subject design as suggested “treatment” may actually harm Dr. P more. It is better to not interfere with his hearing since he uses it to ” see” and he is also very comfortable with how he is living right now.

  2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was a very interesting read and it allowed me to raise multiple questions. As I read the story, I questioned whether or not the situation actually took place because it was difficult for me to grasp Dr. P’s condition. I was intrigued by the way Dr. P was able to identify minuscule details of ordinary objects, but had a hard time identifying the objects as a whole. Due to the uniqueness of his situation, it would be difficult to place Dr. P in a study where we use variables to recognize differences in his behavior. Additionally, Dr. P does not need to acknowledge his perception abilities as a problem if he is still able to function and live comfortably. Though Dr. P’s condition is difficult to diagnose, I do not believe it is necessary to conduct research on how his cognitive abilities might change.

    1. Hi Afifa,

      I agree that Dr. P doesn’t need to see his condition as a problem or a setback. He lives comfortably the way he is and has set up a routine for himself that helps him to live day to day without any troubles.

    2. Afifa,

      I completely agree with everything you said. Mr. P’s condition seemed very unlikely which made it very interesting to me. Uncommon mental deformities are one of the main reason I love psychology because they seem impossible! I also agree with the fact that any experimental procedure to study his condition should not include disclosing information about his condition to him. He has a loving wife that cares for him and takes care of him. He is able to live a happy life without knowing about his brain condition, and I believe it should stay like that.

  3. After reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I was sympathetic towards Dr. P’s case, as I’m sure most people were. However, while I did find his case to be quite unfortunate, I would not go so far as to call it “tragic” because Dr. P was still able to live a happy, (mostly) functional life. I think that this case study does make a contribution to research and the scientific world. In the event that someone was in a similar situation, there would be a precedent case. Therefore, although Dr. P’s case was somewhat inconclusive, it provides future cases with something to compare to. It’s certainly possible that someone could have developed a single-subject design for this case, and it’s possible to develop one for a future case. However, because of the uncertainty surrounding Dr. P’s case, I’m not sure what could have been manipulated as an independent variable. Furthermore, although Dr. P’s case could have been a single-subject design I don’t believe it should have. I find it’s better the way thing happened because he did have a decent quality of life and it’s very possible that he might not have had it been a single-subject design.

    1. Hi Geralyn,

      I agree with your idea that his case shouldn’t be labeled as “tragic.” Although Dr. P. had the inability to recognize and interpret visual information, I do not think he was all that bothered by it. It was a part of him, and only when others pointed it out, did he feel like there was something wrong. I think that because he seemed so at ease with his visual agnosia, having this case study conducted was much more appropriate than if a single-subject design were done.

  4. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was a very fascinating read. I found it really interesting how Dr. P. saw faces when no faces were present, as well was able to describe items with such detail. For example, when he tried to determine what the item that he was given was, he described it as being “about six inches in length, a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment.” He used his sense of smell and touch to help out visual field.

    I definitely think that this case study can be used to better understand other situations and provide some scientific insight. I think that a single-subject design could be used to treat a similar case, however, I think that Dr. P’s circumstances were very unique and in his case, it would not be beneficial. Dr. P. coped with his failure to recognize faces and expressions through music. In his case, he would not benefit from a single-subject design because from the reading, it did not seem as though he was bothered with his situation to the point of not being able to live a happy life. I think that if a person had similar symptoms as Dr. P., was very unhappy, and had trouble with daily functioning, then it would be appropriate to develop a single-subject design.

  5. After reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, I was astonished by his interesting condition. Dr. P could see objects, but not what they actually were. His vision was well but he had trouble with grasping the meaning of objects and described them in an unusual way. His sense of direction was wrong and he would use different body parts for the wrong purposes. Overall, this case study gave me insight as to why psychology as a whole is important. Psychology is the study of the mind and how it functions. I believe that the brain and the mind are separate from one another and Dr. P’s condition shows us how he values his mind and the way it is. He performs daily tasks the wrong way, but it is his own way. If there was an intervention in his case study, he would lose this daily performance and get out of his comfort zone. This case study can be developed as a single-subject design, however, it wouldn’t be beneficial to Dr. P’s health condition. A similar case can be conducted as a single-subject design if the patient is uncomfortable with his way of living and would like alternatives to his condition.

    1. I agree that in the circumstance of Dr. P it may be detrimental to his daily life which may cause distress. I also think it’s interesting to think of the brain and mind as separate entities. From this reading I was in the mindset where the brain allows for the development of the mind, it’s what gives the mind potential to develop. Dr. P’s brain was likely to be “different” from a “normally functioning” brain which allowed for his mind to develop differently; he didn’t see the whole picture but rather the parts and in doing so he created a completely different picture. I think it does bring up the question of whether or not Dr. P was accepting of his ability to comprehend or see the world because he didn’t know any different. If he always saw the world through those lenses would he feel any distress about it? It’s like he doesn’t know the other side so he doesn’t feel any attachment or emotion towards it.

  6. First, I must say that this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever read in my life. The condition of Dr. P in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” has was a condition I first learned in this reading. It’s both surprising and intriguing how an individual can see objects, however, not know what he’s looking at exactly. On the other hand, can this case study be developed into a single-subject design? Well, yes, but not in Dr. P’s case. Although I found his condition to be profoundly uncomfortable, Dr. P seems to be satisfied with it and expresses no desire of doing something about it. To do a single-subject study, we need to have full consent from the participant.

  7. After reading “The Man Who Mistook His Wife” I kept questioning myself as to how, or why this would be happening to Dr. P since the case was so unique. Dr. P was able to identify minor details of simple objects but in turn, he had difficulty identifying the objects as a whole. Being that his case is so unique ( according to Sacks) case was I would say that although a single-subject design can be utilized to treat a similar cases Dr. P’s symptoms were so unique that maybe it cannot be used to help other people therefore not being that beneficial. It still would not hurt to look more into these particular things that are present in Dr. P because maybe one day it could be used to help some else’s particular case.

    1. Hi Loraine,
      Even if Dr.P is the only person who’s ever had this condition I agree that further examination could potentially give vital information to help another person with a similar condition. Also do you think Dr.P’s perception of the world around him is a gift or a curse?

    2. Hi Loraine,
      I enjoyed your reasoning to why you should or shouldn’t apply a single subjects design to Dr. P’s situation. Similarly I am torn between the pros and cons of performing a single subjects design on Dr. P.

    3. Loraine,
      I too pondered as to what was causing Dr. P’s impairment, however, I believe whether his case was one in a million, that it would be beneficial to learn more about his condition and look into what neurological changes were occurring in the brain and exactly what part of the brain they were changing and how fast that way Sacks might have been able to gain more insight for future reference.

  8. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was not only an interesting story to read but it also brings to light a complex situation that would be hard for any doctor to diagnose. I was extremely interested in the fact that Dr, P had such extraordinary musical talents but could not identify objects or people unless he associated certain landmarks to them. I think the thing to be derived from this particular situation and be applied to other situations are the continuous efforts of the doctor that kept trying to understand Dr. P’s situation and gave him the opportunity on several occasions to express how he understood the world around him. This approach helps get a more detailed look at the perspective of the patient rather than just the point of view of the researcher. This case study can definitely be developed as a single-subject design especially if they try the placebo effect and see if there are any changes in the situation. Doing so would not only help Dr. P but could also result in treating patients with similar symptoms in the future, if the single-subject design yields good results.

    1. I’m not sure what kind of design that includes a placebo can be developed to improve patients/subjects with agnosia. Agnosia seems to be a cognitive problem where there is a lack of recognition of objects as a whole. Dr. P was only able to decipher what objects were by focusing on specific attributes of the object and even then it lacked in accuracy. If there was a medical (either surgical or pharmaceutical) there would still be the ethical problem where subjects have the expectation of being “cured”. I also think including a placebo may be unnecessary because agnosia is a cognitive impairment due to damage in the brain, I would think subjects are unlikely to be able to improve through will power alone. If it was a behavioral change/system implemented would a placebo even be possible to include?

  9. Whether the story was exaggerated or not I felt it was definitely captivating. It was interesting how Dr.P’s wife exclaimed that some people weren’t able to see Dr.P’s “artistic development” in his paintings. But something she failed to see was the fact that his artistic development was actually due to the advancement of his peculiar visual impairment. The irony of it all was that despite his mysterious condition Dr.P seemed to enjoy the simplicity and complexities of life such as art and music just as much as before the condition appeared. The most important thing that can probably be taken away from this case study is to put oneself in another persons shoes and to have compassion since one never knows what a person is going through internally. A single subject design could possibly be devised for Dr.P’s situation but personally I don’t believe it would be advisable since Dr.P seems free of stress as he is unaware of his condition. Maybe that’s the way things should be.

  10. I found “The Man Who Mistook Fis Wife for a Hat” to be a very interesting read. His condition is very unique and i have not heard of a condition like this myself. While Dr. P seemed to have the ability to see, he was not able to identify the things he was looking at especially faces. It seemed as though that while Dr P could see very small specific traits he was unable to put them together to visualize an entire face or person. While this is a rare isolated even it can give us some insight as to how the brain functions. When you consider that Dr p was able to see trait but not faces it lead one to wonder, how Dr P. would perform on a stroop test. It seems that he was able to identify trait independently of one another without associating them. Maybe Dr. P could see colors without associating them with words. I think Dr P would be a great candidate for a single subjects design. The fact that he is unaware of his disease would only make finding more accurate. However for ethical reasons it seems he would be better off unaware of his condition. Dr. P would probably be happier not knowing

  11. I was both intrigued and amazed with the story of Dr. P, his condition was unlike any other that I had ever read about and the fact that he was unaware of his condition was probably the most heart breaking thing about it all. I however do not believe it would be wise to tell Dr. P of his impairment as he has found a way to live and function in a perfectly normal life despite his impairment. In regards to a single subject design you could use his paintings as an example to lead from. Have him paint or describe something to you and use the results as a baseline, from there track his progress and throw in some extra stimuli to see if his impairment worsens or gets better and by what amount by comparing it to the baseline.

  12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a perfect example of the reason why I became interested in the brain. This is such a unique case and made me question what exactly is going on in Mr. P’s brain, if there is something actually going on. This story reminded me of prosopagnosia, which I learned in my cognitive psychology class. We learned about a specific case in which a woman who was a doctor in psychology had this disease. She has a young child and was picking him up from school one day. She ended up almost taking the wrong child home because she was unable to recognize her kid. This disease allows her to see every part of the face, like the nose, mouth, eyes, etc. But, the way she visualizes it did not form a face. Dr. P is a unique case, and it would be wonderful if psychologists were able to properly study him without causing any type of harm to him, which could result from using a single-subject design. But, because he does not fully understand that there is something wrong in his brain, I believe it would be best to leave him be. He is living a comfortable life with a wife that loves and takes care of him and I do not condone to turning him into a lab rat in order to further our understanding of his condition. On the other hand, if we were able to find out more about this, it could eventually help others with this rare condition. A single-subject could have been used to study Dr. P, although I am not quite sure how.

  13. Mr. P’s case was interesting in the sense that while it did seem that he had an impairment with his senses, at the same time it did not look like he was disabled at all. In fact, one could say that due to his unique situation, he was able to amplify his talents in the creative field, as displayed by his works of art and music. At the same time, he does not treat his condition as a detriment to his well being. Instead, he appears to be enjoying himself and his life, and his wife seems to share a similar viewpoint.

    1. I feel like Mr. P’s situation is better left off as a case study rather than as a full on experiment. This is primarily because it may make the subject uncomfortable if they become aware of the fact that they are being observed, and may not exhibit the same reactions or behaviors as Mr. P had.

  14. I thought it was interesting because being able to form relationships between objects and its features are autonomic. We don’t have to verbally or mentally make a statement asserting the connection between features and objects because it seems that our brain already associates features of an object to an entire object. It’s a function we take for granted because until there’s the absence of it we pay it no mind. It would just be another example of executive functioning occurring where the brain is able to differentiate between objects through a given set of physical features that it attributes to the object as a whole. In this circumstance I think it would not have been possible to do a single-subject design because to do so may put the subject at risk of distress. Given that the subject was already coping through music and only required the constancy of routine, to perform an experiment would be to disrupt an already functioning system which may result in a decline in the subject (either in their ability to function on a day to day basis or attitude towards their disability). I do think a single subject design could be developed in cases where subjects with agnosia who have not developed a system to live day to day or those feel distress about their disability. An alternating treatments design could be developed to determine strategies of coping/living for subjects with agnosia.

  15. I really enjoyed reading “The Man Who Mistook Fis Wife for a Hat” it was very interesting. I found it very amazed how Dr.P was unaware of his condition but he still continued to move on with his daily life and formed relationships with objects. He can see objects but was unaware of what exactly he was seeing. Due to Dr.P’s unique situation, he was able to excel his talents in the creative field, through his works of art and music. Dr.P was already living a comfortable life with his wife and doing a single -subject design would be quite difficult to conduct. Since “treatment” may actually harm Dr. P more and also we might not know if his symptoms may increase if we turn this case study to an experiment it would not be beneficial.

  16. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was an intriguing article due to the uniqueness of his case. Dr. P was able to identify details of faces or images, however, not been able to see the whole image. Furthermore, what was interesting was his ability to view different objects as simply geometric, colored shapes rather than applying a meaning to them. Dr. P’s case also showed that he had no recognition of his impairment. A single-subject study could have been run by applying more tests for Dr.P to complete and see the extent of his impairment and try and find answers that may help people who could have this in the future. However, morally the researchers would have to decide whether this man should be put through this study after such a long life of only understanding this way of viewing the world.

  17. When reading the article, it was an very intriguing narrative and started by teasing the idea that Dr. P perceived the world differently. Creating suspense and making the reader wanting to find out Dr. P’s condition. However, this type of narrative makes it seem more like a story than an actual case study. Which made me question whether Dr. P was a real person or not. What can be taken from the article is that people can perceive things differently and many things are subjective. Therefore, when conducting qualitative research, one should keep that idea in mind.
    This case could have been a single subject design had the researcher or doctor continued to observe Dr. P. However, this is very unique case and may be hard finding others with similar conditions to observe.

  18. Dr. P’s situation is both tragic and fascinating at the same time. I think its fascinating because this type of visual agnosia is very rare. Dr. P was not able to see the whole picture, but able to fixate on specific characteristics, and recognizing people this way is very unique. Especially because when one looks at the whole picture, specific characteristics are not analyzed. In this sense, Dr. P stands out because of his difference in perception. Human beings are very limited in perceiving things, so what Dr. P experiences may not necessarily be a total problem, because that is how his brain receives input. However, he does mistake objects for humans, and confuses his wife for a hat, which affects his daily life, and may cause him harm. I am very curious to know what happened to Dr.P, and what he might be diagnosed with. I believe further research can lead to a breakthrough on what Dr. P is experiencing and how to resolve it. This might help others who are experiencing the same things.

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