The "Military Method" for Photographic Memory - true or false?

I read this article on eHow the other day and spent a little bit of time on Google. I can’t find much more information, and the other pages have nearly the same instructions word for word, so I’m pretty suspicious. The article claims that by doing 15 minutes of training a day for a month you can develop a photographic memory. The steps revolve around sitting in a dark room and flipping the lights on and off to memorize and see imprints of the material you are reading. Anyone ever heard of this before?

Here are some links to what I read: (Method 2)

1 Like

Never heard of it before, even though I have heard of “psychic spies” in the military and such. As with any claim like this, it would be wise to remain highly skeptical until there are actual studies done, which there probably haven’t been any.


1 Like

I have noticed something like this though I have never really pursued the technique
I do sense something is there to look into
I suspect symbols would work better certainly at first

You can easily see something sticks around for a few moments after you close your eyes on a bright day after looking at something like a window
Perhaps, one could move this brief dying retina implant into deeper memory, e.g., a simple map then add to this map ever greater details

I am surprised one of the memory gurus have not latched onto this whether it works or not: )

I’ve never tried that with a lamp, but sometimes when I’m walking around I look at things and try to imprint the scene in my mind. I then close my eyes and tried to hold the image. I do it with scenes and faces.

See also: Does photographic memory exist?


Honestly, this seems like a really stupid way of trying to develop photographic recall.

A book I was reading a while back about the differences in learning styles between folks indicated that about 10% of the population has photographic memory as the primary means of storing long term memories and probably a similar number that store things more or less completely sequentially and verbally.

The other folks tend to use a bit of both. I’m fortunate in that I’m quite good at both, I’ve developed it over the years.

So, it’s definitely possible to develop it, but this way of doing it is pretty silly. I’d personally recommend taking up drawing and then just looking at the subject, blocking the subject out, then drawing. Or even just placing the paper in a way that prevents you from viewing the subject and the drawing at the same time.

Otherwise, I’d recommend just paying closer attention to what you see, eventually the brain should get the message that you want to actually remember what you’re seeing.

1 Like

Do you know the name of the book? I would like to read it. :slight_smile:

I do, it’s a bit complicated. It’s photographic memory more like the type the OP is talking about. Whereas the type that people often times think of is more closely related to Autism and privileged access to the subconscience. In my experience, there’s a bit of a continuum there depending upon innate neurophysiology and training.

The book talks a bit about this, but I’m not sure how much help it would be in developing this as a skill. It’s mostly intended for teaching spelling to people that store information visually.

Anyways, there’s two of them, and my memory has them rather closely enmeshed, I can’t recall which one had the percentage. but, they both talk a bit about memorization by visual input. 4 Weeks to an Organized Life with AD/HD Jeffrey Freed and Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World by Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T. & Laurie Parsons

The former probably does a better job of laying out the situation and the latter has a better exercise for experimenting with it. But, it’s essentially just staring at shorts strings of numbers until you get a good visual, then writing them forwards and backwards. I don’t do much of that, because I don’t usually have much need to, but it’s a lot faster than anything other than mnemonics, even for the first try. Later on it’s faster than any method I’ve ever heard.

I’m not sure exactly what the differences are between types of photographic memory. Visual memory training is surely helpful in certain memory feats like in the speed memory competitions. I just wouldn’t call it photographic memory.

I do that to some degree, but again wouldn’t call it photographic memory in the way that is generally meant. I think it would be more accurate to call it something like “excellent visual memory”. Maybe he means that 10% of people have “excellent visual memory” or use visual memory as a primary way of dealing with information?

Thanks… I searched for “photographic memory” inside of those book on Google Books and came up with these results in one of the books. The other book had a chapter on memory (which I couldn’t read online), but didn’t mention “photographic”.

One thing that catches my eye about the book is that it references another popular brain myth about left and right brains, which has pretty much been debunked. It may be that the book is actually very helpful with its practical tips – just that it may not be up to date scientifically.

I’m 100% behind visual memory training. I do it often. :slight_smile:
It’s just the terminology that I’m not convinced about…

Back during the years of my BA, I tried to get a job with airport customs in Canada. One of the tests involved pictures of a bustling lobby with dozens of details. I then had to describe a large number of elements I had seen (20 or more). Amongst all of the tests, I did the best on this one, and this is some years before I really knew anything about memory skills or techniques.

But I remember quickly developing a kind of “ninja” mindset as I looked at the image, gobbling up the corners, the walls and then conceiving of the layout in quadrants before worrying about any of the details.

I would call this neither photographic nor visual memory.

It is strategic memory that involves visual elements.

Since that test and since my ever-increasing interest in location-based memory techniques has grown, I often think about why that particular approach worked so well, developed as it was, on the sly. I think it worked because it was kind of like assessing the chess board where the clue to understanding the center involves understanding the margins and vice versa. It’s the old “pay attention” rule at play too.

Trying to hold a scene is great visual training and cool ways to practice involve not only locations, but paintings, photographs and for movement, scenes from films.

In a way, scenes from films is a fascinating thing to replay in the mind because you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to do. And when you do it, notice how easily the background leaps out at you as you follow the action of the character.

Again, understanding the margins is the key to understanding the center and vice versa.

Hello, I came across the same article at the first link you posted some time ago, and saved the technique in my email, planning to try it out later. I tried it a few times when I first found it for maybe 3-4 consecutive days, didn’t see any results, and quit/forgot about it for some years, busy with other things. That was around the time of this post (2014). I tried it again in 2017, without putting much effort into it (or practicing consecutively for 30 days like the original author says you should), and after about 10-12 minutes in the bathroom flicking the light switch on and off after 3 days of practice, it worked! I do believe I was using a piece of paper to “block in” the text I was trying to put to memory. I was definitely holding the material a short distance away from my face where my eyes could easily focus on the text, and after switching the light off one last time, I could see a very clear, glowing visual imprint of the material. At the time I had been reading a lot of different stuff; Tolkien, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, the history of gold, and various other texts for at least 2 hours a day, just for fun, and to reiterate, I did the technique for maybe 3 consecutive days when it finally worked. I just found the instructions again(I have no excuse for not doing this every day since then, though I was locked up for some time), and I’m going to give the technique another try, and dedicate at least 30 minutes a day because after that first imprint of that single paragraph, I couldn’t get my brain, eyes and nervous system to repeat the same feat. Right now is day one for me, and I’m going to use a cutout piece of ‘blocking’ paper every time (like the instructions say) and different books to keep myself motivated. I’m also going to upload a picture here of what exactly it looks like when your brain and nervous system finally pick up on what your eyes see, and you’ve essentially taught your brain how to recall the information.

I have already tried it for some days, could see the page in my mind, but it wasnt that clear. perhaps because there were many words in page and I could not focus in a point I was able to read all words, I also was able to see it just for a couple of seconds in mind. Perhaps the matter is not having properly genes to do so, what brain area is required to do so ? image is stored in your mind for how much time ? can you recover it in the other day ? By the way, I used to train my mind right after waking up. Perhaps taking some drug or polypeptide chain can become easier. would appreciate any clue.

Well, since you’re starting to get results, I’d like to encourage you to keep going with your practice. I was practicing just yesterday (the 15th) and I didn’t get the full visual imprint/image like I did 2 years ago, but I did see for a moment a black line on the page (that wasn’t printed or written by me) under the words that moved smoothly (a product of my visual system), unlike my normally erratic eye movements. I’d look up how to stimulate the eye muscles - if you could increase the number of fixations your eyes make (normal is like 4-5 a second), you could potentially take in more information while reading ( which involves maintaining comprehension while scanning the material quicker). Keep up the hard work!

So there is a memory technic based on this effect ? Insane, it’s the same effect as when you look at a bulb and switch off the light? Like you can see it for few secs?

1 Like

Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing your experience with us :slight_smile:

I’m curious. Was the picture of the paragraph sharp enough to read all the words? What happened when you tried to look at a word that hadn’t been at the center of your sight when you flicked the light switch? Didn’t the picture of the paragraph jump as well so that you looked at the same spot again?


It seems that this topic is somewhat confused. A retinal afterimage typically lasts no longer than 1 second, more typically a few hundred milliseconds. Of course, this depends on the ambient light, etc. The retinal after-image (called iconic memory), lasts long enough for the brain to decide if it should pay attention to something in the real world.

Of course, if you’re sitting in the dark and turn the lights on and then off (and repeat) you are basically increasing the relative brightness of the image, which will, in turn, cause the retinal afterimage to last longer. Of course, you couldn’t sit there and read the text (if that was the image), because every time you moved your eyes, the image would also move.

So, the short explanation from my point of view is that there is no benefit to increasing the length of time the after image is available. Better would probably be to train with the memory game where a number of objects are uncovered then covered again, and you try to recall as many objects as you can. I’m sure, with training, most people could do better than they currently do with that memory game (which is paying more complete attention to a briefly displayed scene).

Of course, if you then stop practicing, your skill is likely to go back to baseline in a short time.

I also do not believe that one can develop a photographic memory (militarily or otherwise). I think a practical definition of a photographic memory is that one can look at a stimulus and it is effortlessly and without the use of any techniques, permanently registered in long term memory. I don’t think that this can be ‘developed’.


My modification to the “Military Method”

  1. Using Word or PowerPoint, take, say, a poem, then enter this into a slide or page, the item
  2. Play with various fonts and font sizes and font colors that works best for you
  3. Also do this regarding line spacing
  4. Darken the background of the slide or page
  5. If you are comfortable with Microsoft Office, create a Style you can use for other items
    You can easily turn on and off the item for mental photographing using blinking for the camera eye shutter