Can we really have a photographic memory?

Although popular in movies and pop culture, the real answer is a bit more complicated.

Imagine being able to recite every word of a book you have just read or being able to draw a sea of ​​skyscrapers in minute detail after a brief flight over it or being able to recall an image perfectly after 25 years. These superhuman abilities were invented as photographic memory where someone can recall information in pristine condition. But, is it a real thing?

Can we really have a photographic memory?

The short answer is no, you really can’t have a photographic memory. “While the possibility of someone having a photographic memory is fascinating, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it actually exists. It has yet to be backed up by anything other than anecdotal evidence” , said Madison Eubanks, clinical psychiatrist and collaborator for EndThrive.

But eidetic memory is the closest thing to a photographic memory. After multiple exposures to an image, people with eidetic memory can recall images with incredible accuracy for a short period of time. “YYou can think of eidetic memory as “flash memory” where you are only shown something for a short period of time (eg, 30 seconds) but you are able to describe the object in detail as soon as you turn away the look,” says Eubanks.

For ten years, researcher Ralph Norman Haber studied the memories of school-aged children. the study illustrated that eidetic memory surfaces in a “small percentage of children ages 6 to 12, and [is] virtually non-existent in adults. Surprisingly, children with eidetic memory talked about the picture in the present tense, as if it was always right in front of their face. If you are not blessed with this memory, these mnemonic devices will help you remember everything.

How did they do that? Speaking in the present tense (“The photo shows a snow-capped mountain with a white goat hanging from the side”) suggests that they held the image in their brains, without remembering it. Although a small number of people have this ability, here is the 5 types of memory everyone has and why they are important. And why don’t adults seem to have eidetic memories? “Children possess significantly more eidetic memory capacity than adults, suggesting that a developmental change (such as the acquisition of language skills) may disrupt the potential for eidetic imagery,” Andy Hudmon writing in his book, learning and memory.

How are eidetic and photographic memory different?

What differentiates a hypothetical photographic memory from an eidetic memory is time and total accuracy. If photographic memory were to exist, those with photographic memory could recall things perfectly whenever they wanted, but eidetic memory lasts briefly, sometimes in error. The photographic memory would not be erased. It is the ability to remember images forever, as if they were permanently stored in your brain. On the other hand, eidetic memories only last for a limited period of time – minutes, hours, days – until they eventually fade,” Eubanks said. Looking to improve your own memory? Try incorporating one of these daily habits of people with impressive memories.

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Michael E. Marquez