Photographic memory

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A photographic memory, or eidetic memory,[1] is the ability to remember images or objects in great detail after seeing them for only a short time. They do not use mnemonics. The existence of this ability is disputed.

The claims made differ somewhat, but stress the recall of visual information. Examples of the information include: pages from books, magazines, and license plate numbers, in great detail after only brief exposure to it. It is claimed that those with a photographic memory tend to have higher IQ than those without it due to the excellent memory to recall information from past experience even at a glance.[2][3] The person does not use mnemonics.

The ability is said to occur in the early childhood of a small number of children (between 2 percent and 10 percent) and generally is not found in adults.[2]

Sceptics[change | change source]

Some do not believe this skill exists. The American cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, in his book The Society of Mind (1988), considered reports of photographic memory to be an “unfounded myth”.[4]

An example of extraordinary memory abilities being ascribed to photographic memory comes from the popular interpretations of Adriaan de Groot's classic experiments into the ability of chess grandmasters to memorize complex positions of chess pieces on a chess board.[5] Initially it was found that these experts could recall surprising amounts of information, far more than nonexperts, suggesting eidetic skills. However, when the experts were presented with arrangements of chess pieces that could never occur in a game, their recall was no better than the nonexperts, suggesting that they had developed an ability to organize certain types of information, rather than possessing innate eidetic ability.

Scientific skepticism about the existence of photographic memory was fueled around 1970 by Charles Stromeyer. He studied his future wife, Elizabeth, who claimed that she could recall poetry written in a foreign language which she did not understand. She could remember the poetry years after she had first seen the poem. She also could, apparently, recall random dot patterns so as to combine two patterns into a stereoscopic image.[6][7] She is the only person documented to have passed such a test. The methods used in the testing procedures were open to question.[8] Additionally, the tests have never been repeated (Elizabeth has consistently refused to repeat them).[9] This raised further concerns.

References[change | change source]

  1. The word eidetic comes from the Greek word εἶδος eidos, "seen". "Eidetic". American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.. 2000. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Eidetic image", Encyclopaedia Britannica
  3. Haber R.N. 1979. Twenty years of haunting eidetic imagery: where's the ghost? Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 2 (4) 583- 594. [1]
  4. Minsky, Marvin (1998). Society of Mind. Simon & Schuster. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-671-65713-0 . "...we often hear about people with 'photographic memories' that enable them to quickly memorise all the fine details of a complicated picture or a page of text in a few seconds. So far as I can tell, all of these tales are unfounded myths, and only professional magicians or charlatans can produce such demonstrations."
  5. de Groot A. 1946. Het denken van den schaker. Amsterdam: Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij; and 1965. Thought and choice in chess. The Hague: Mouton.
  6. Stromeyer C.F. & Psotka J. (1970). "The detailed texture of eidetic images". Nature 225 (5230): 346–349. doi:10.1038/225346a0 . PMID 5411116 .
  7. Thomas N.J.T. 2010. Other quasi-perceptual phenomena. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  8. Blakemore C; Braddick O. & Gregory R.L. 1970. Detailed texture of eidetic images: a discussion. Nature. 226, 1267–1268.
  9. Foer, Joshua 2006. Kaavya Syndrome: The accused Harvard plagiarist doesn't have a photographic memory. No one does. Slate. [2]