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The Truth About Photographic Memory


Part of a System
I read this in Psychology today magazine a month ago and came across it again on the web. Pretty interesting stuff.

The Truth About Photographic Memory

Last year, 59-year-old Akira Haraguchi recited from memory the first 83,431 decimal places of pi, earning a spot in the Guinness World Records.

He must have a photographic memory, right? Not so. According to mounting evidence, it's impossible to recall images with near perfect accuracy.

Certainly, some people do have phenomenal memories. Chess masters can best multiple opponents while blindfolded. Super card sharks can memorize the order of a shuffled deck of cards in less than a minute. But people with Herculean memories tend to be adept at one specific task—i.e., a person who memorizes cards may be inept at recognizing faces.

Alan Searleman, a professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in New York, says eidetic imagery comes closest to being photographic. When shown an unfamiliar image for 30 seconds, so-called "eidetikers" can vividly describe the image—for example, how many petals are on a flower in a garden scene. They report "seeing" the image, and their eyes appear to scan across the image as they describe it. Still, their reports sometimes contain errors, and their accuracy fades after just a few minutes. Says Searleman, "If they were truly 'photographic' in nature, you wouldn't expect any errors at all."

While people can improve their recall through tricks and practice, eidetikers are born, not made, says Searleman. The ability isn't linked to other traits, such as high intelligence. Children are more likely to possess eidetic memory than adults, though they begin losing the ability after age six as they learn to process information more abstractly.

Although psychologists don't know why children lose the ability, the loss of this skill may be functional: Were humans to remember every single image, it would be difficult to make it through the day.

By William Lee Adams


F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Political User
I have photographic memory :cool:


The article is correct, but this doesn't mean squat in the bigger scheme of things.

The term tends to refer to remembering objects/numbers/texts and things of that nature. It's just the manner in which people tend to store that data.

I can absorb and keep data in my head for a while. Through college, it made it easy for me to do a lot of things because I would simply read the text in question (science classes for example) and be able to regurgitate that information almost verbatim.

Contrary to the article, I can also remember faces extremely well. My issue is with names, but that has more to do with the sheer number of people I know and deal with than the actual fact that I can't remember a name lol.

The human mind constantly has to deal with large quantities of data and therefore it is impossible for it to keep information, without errors, for extended periods of time.

If I wanted unbelievable long-term memory, I would obviously have to spend more time with the items in question to absorb the information. I typically keep things in short-term memory for a while and this serves me well.

Key foundation (which you should learn in school) is to KNOW your basics. Once you know them, everything else falls into place and becomes a lot easier after that.

Photographic memory is simply the ability of someone to re-designate items to various memory blocks and make it easier for them to pull out that information when needed. Whether it is short-term or long-term depends on the person themselves. Being good at something gimmicky is not my definition of photographic memory, it simply is a re-ordering of data to make it easier for that person.

Perris Calderon

Staff member
Political User
funny..I usually have a terrible memory for non sequencial data, like dates and names, but incredible memory for sequential events, for instance if I saw someone I played poker with 20 years ago I would tell you every hand we played together card by card including suit and bet but I wouldn't remember his nane

chess doesn't really fall into the discussion the way the author insinuates, a player playing blindfolded is remembering positions and principles, not moves, he usually can know exactly where every piece is becuase of standard openings and it becomes easy to remember deviations becuase of the principles they violate, so it's not really a memory thing but a "principles" thing
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Part of a System
I read this in the magazine becasue one of my friends was saying something about way i study, another kid in the car was saying that i as in technokid88 has photographic memory, and the other orginal kid pulls out the magazine than he shows me the article. I just though it has some intresting points. Im very good on remembering faces what people wore when i first met them, names i'm also pretty good... just depends if i was wasted when i met them lol..


Mr. Bananagrabber
Political User
I'd go with that, i have fairly good memory, i can memorize a picture with almost all the details in tact, maybe missing small hairline details. However, i doubt that if i didnt know the picture already, i would be able to say the numbers on it if it had any, id get mixed up, probably because they are not specific to the drawing, if a drawing has a purple dragon, its specific. You can see 2s, 3s, and 4s anywhere you go, thety aren't specific.


Spammer representing.
Political User
I learn by cross reference.

I may have a bit of information, but I can remember some small obscure data by just hearing about another bit of related data.

Faces and names I am terrible at though. I am alright at sequential data.
Faces and names are tough. Part of that is cultural. The longer you see an object the easier it is to remember. Staring at a guys face is a challenge to him and offensive, staring at a woman's can get you slapped.

Good memory of faces indicates a people person who makes longer eye contact.

On the other hand, what good is remembering PI to 83k decimal places if you don't know how to use it to figure out the area or circumference of a circle, the volume of a sphere, or how much desert you can eat..


Folding Master!
Political User
Johnny said:
I have a great memory for unimportant things. It sucks with things you have to know ..
I have the same problem. Drives the wife nuts because I can't remember the important stuff but can rattle off some insiginifant data.

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Perris Calderon wrote on Electronic Punk's profile.
Ep, glad to see you come back and tidy up...did want to ask a one day favor, I want to enhance my resume , was hoping you could make me administrator for a day, if so, take me right off since I won't be here to do anything, and don't know the slightest about the board, but it would be nice putting "served administrator osnn", if can do, THANKS

Been running around Quora lately, luv it there https://tinyurl.com/ycpxl
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All good still mate?
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What a long strange trip it's been. =)

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