Eidetic/Photographic Memory Possible or Impossible?

I know the general consensus of this forum that eidetic/photographic memories don’t exist, but I have always wondered how then have they acquired these abilities? For e.g. read a page and remember everything on the page, every word forwards and backwards, remember anything ever said to you, anything you have seen, pretty much a Sheldon Cooper/Mike Ross…I read of a Harvard women who was shown hundreds of pictures of dots in a constant stream, every one incrementally different, and then when shown in a different order the next time, she was able to tell the difference between them! I ask then, has anyone ever read of similar occurrences (people such as Daniel Tammet will not be considered as conducive evidence :P)?. Finally, has anyone ever found writing on techniques that enable someone to learn these abilities (time is irrelevant to me, if I there is information pertaining to it, please share it!). if it is not innate, can it be learned? Any input in this thread would be invaluable cheers! Nick :slight_smile:

I’m pretty sure the kind of thing you’re looking for doesn’t exist, and there’s no possible way to learn it. Maybe I’m wrong - I’m naturally sceptical about this kind of thing, and I didn’t believe in memory techniques until I tried it - but I’ve been meeting memory people for many years now, and I’ve never encountered or heard of a genuine ‘photographic memory’. :slight_smile:


I’m willing to be hopeful, but the first thing that my psychology professor in Psych 101 taught me was that photographic memory doesn’t exist, and he’s unsure why people think it does. He didn’t really give proof for that statement, but then again – how would you really? But he was a pretty old man, and the head of the department – so I’m somewhat inclined to believe him.

That said, I’d love to meet someone that actually did have this talent and be proven wrong.

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I’ve read materials about Shichida method, raising the child from 0 age and it seems that we can train to have this ability.

Care to explain a bit more Duyhoa?

Hi Nicholas. As i know Prof.Shichida focus on right brain training and he believes that we can get these ability: photographic memory, recognize dotcard but it should start from early, not later than 2 years old. Especially the child can have super abilities like guessing by touching), precognition (predicting events), clairvoyance (seeing the hidden), and telepathy (mental communication). And the key to these HSP abilities is imaging. I think if you make a search then you can have more information about this.

I believe that you can get a photographic memory if you expand your consciousness very much with different exercises . But still won’t be 100% perfect …

If there are such people, where are they? If thy can memorize as fast as they can read something, then reaching of Millenium standard level for each discipline on memory competitions would be a piece of cake for them.

And I don’t think some Ben Pridmore is hiding this ability or what…He would acquire much more if he “revealed” such talent. (I know Zoomy you’re a honest guy! ;)). Open youtube, type there Daniel Tammet, then Ben Pridmore, Simon Reinhard and a lot of similar “crazy guys”…and then compare the results. Daniel is famous because he’s allegedly sick, thus it’s easier to manipulate fragile hearts of majority of people.

I remember I had one classmate who used to claim she has a photographic memory because of her good marks at school… But after all, she was just sitting at the desk in her bedroom all the afternoon and studying. How sad. Why can’t this happen to me now? I was too young to think about it… :frowning: I should visit her now for proof!


I think i have some evidence although it’s not full enough…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8JBRlUpizg. Some explaination is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgCstx_JCcE

It seems to me that the existing claims are anecdotal:

The one person who was actually passed a test apparently refuses to get retested:

Scientific skepticism about the existence of eidetic memory was fueled around 1970 by Charles Stromeyer who studied his future wife Elizabeth, who claimed that she could recall poetry written in a foreign language that she did not understand years after she had first seen the poem. She also could, apparently, recall random dot patterns with such fidelity as to combine two patterns into a stereoscopic image. She remains the only person documented to have passed such a test. However, the methodology of the testing procedures used is questionable (especially given the extraordinary nature of the claims being made) as is the fact that the researcher married his subject, and that the tests have never been repeated (Elizabeth has consistently refused to repeat them) raises further concerns.

See also:

I just watched the video. Could memorizing the colors be considered genuine photographic memory? If the child could accurately draw the shapes, then it might show that he is holding a “photographic” visual image in his mind, but I’m not sure if memorizing colors would indicate photographic memory abilities.

It looks like a useful exercise though. I think that training can improve one’s ability to hold a visual image in the mind – Ramon Campayo is one example.

One way to test if it’s true “photographic” memory would be to change the data to make it unfamiliar. If the recall is done from a mental photograph, then the type of data wouldn’t matter. If the type and layout of the data matters, then there is probably some other explanation, like with chessboard memorization:

Initially it was found that these experts could recall surprising amounts of information, far more than non-experts, 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 non-experts, suggesting that they had developed an ability to organize certain types of information, rather than possessing innate eidetic ability.

I don’t have the link for it, but there is a youtube video out there that shows an autistic artist (from UK I beleive) who can recreate huge scenes entirely from memory. In the video, the filmmakers hired a helicopter to take him above a city and upon landing, he created a huge drawing of the city with detail down to individual buildings and rooftops, all accurate according to maps.

Could this be evidence of photographic memory existing?

Edit: the name of the artist is Stephen Wiltshire

He is a brilliant artist… Whether it’s “photographic memory” or not would depend on whether or not he has studied/drawn architecture and/or photographs of the cities previously. It’s difficult to know without more information.

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I’m pretty sure there’s either more to what he said or he’s full of it.

I’ve got photographic memory in that I remember things visually and once I store something, I rarely, if ever forget. That’s about 10% of the population that stores information in that way as their primary method of storing information. It can look freakish to other people, I can stare at a number for a bit and then recite it backwards and forwards with ease.

However, if what he meant was individuals like Sheldon Cooper and Mike Ross who remember every detail about every moment of every day, that’s definitely not possible. Even individuals that have hypermnesia, have a limit to how much they can store, but depending upon the degree and how well we go about selecting the details we choose, it can appear as if we never forget anything and remember everything that we come into contact with.

As far as I can tell the limitation is based upon original awareness. Because I store most of my memories visually, I can store more information than if I were storing it as a set of sounds. The place where things get a bit iffy is with retrieval. There’s a lot of information that I have locked in my brain that I have a hard time accessing because it’s included with an image that I wasn’t able to fully process due to the time and energy requirements necessary to do so.

A good example was from 2005 the week before the VT massacre, a woman was murdered locally by her estranged boyfriend in one of the local college buildings. I had sat on the same bus as her probably a few hundred feet a month or two earlier and I can remember every detail. However, because I’m accessing the information from my lower brain, there’s lots of details in the image that I can’t access very well. The only reason I can access the image at all is that I saw her picture in the paper which allowed me to access the memory as I then has an address to pull the information up with.

It’s really the address and processing problem that seems to be the limiting factor. That and the fact that one has to walk the archives from time to time to observe the layout of the memories and maintain as needed.

If it’s the video I’m thinking of, he’s autistic. And the accuracy of which he depicted the scene is more or less impossible without either having access to the camera they used to check his work against, or him having a genuine photographic memory.

Wait, but what about that guy Rain Man is based upon? Josh Foer met him and described him in his “Moonwalk with Einstein”. Also there was “Little book about big memory” about Russian guy who had synaesthesia and was considered to be unable of forgetting after 20 or 30 years of tests. Description of him sounds like Sheldon Cooper, except without apparent mental disorders and even more troubled by his gift.

I don’t think that only because some of you have not met people with this amazing skill is a reason to believe that is not real. Just think for a moment, how would your life be with a true eidetic memory? You can take advantage in so many levels of your personal and professional life.

Personally if I manage to develop this skill to the fullest I probably share my techniques anonymously. I would not like the people around me know about this.

The burden of proof is on the person making a claim. No one has ever been shown to have “photographic memory”. There are only anecdotal examples. If anyone can find one verifiable case of photographic memory from scientific literature and post it here, I’ll immediately change my mind. :slight_smile:

Several people have brought up this point: if photographic memory exists, why hasn’t someone with photographic memory shown up at the World Memory Championships or the XMT? There is a lot of prize money waiting for anyone who can quickly glace at just a few dozen numbers and photographically hold them in memory for just a few minutes.

I suspect that Luria didn’t know what he was dealing with and that Shereshevky (“S”) was a trained, professional mnemonist and showman, just like the memory champions and Derren Browns of today. S used the method of loci, just like every other trained mnemonist.

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Whether it exist or not is debatable. But as far as I know, it is NOT a skill that can be trained. At least, no one has claimed that he/she trained themselves photographic memory.

A year or so, ago, I created a website, about memory, for an English class assignment. I included the following short biography of the Rain Man in the website.

Kim Peek – The Original Rain Man

Have you seen Rain Man , the 1988 movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise? Hoffman’s character, a savant, was based on Kim Peek. He was born November 11, 1951, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he passed away there on December 19, 2009, due to a heart attack. He was born with a brain abnormality, agenesis of the corpus callosum, which means that the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain was missing. He read about eight books a day, reading each book in about half an hour; it is estimated he read about 12,000 books during his lifetime and was able to recall them with a retention level of about 98%. He would scan two pages at a time, the left eye reading the left page, the right eye the right page, simultaneously, in about 10 seconds. His prodigious memory allowed him to become expert in several different fields, including history, sports, geography, music, and literature. Upon meeting Peek, screenwriter Barry Morrow was so impressed with him that he decided to write a story about an autistic savant and his relationship with his brother. The movie Rain Man was based on this story, and it earned Morrow an Academy Award. He felt so grateful to Peek that he gave him the Oscar.