Photographic Memory

I myself claim to have eidetic memory. I believe that the only reason I do well on a test is because I can picture where the exact answer is on my study guide or on the notes I wrote down. I had always thought it to be a science, one that was proven to be true. After all, I thought I had a form of until I read articles that disproved it as a science.

Upon my research I realize that there is no scientific evidence to back up eidetic memories. It was more so common belief and spread of word that made people believe in the “science” of photographic memory. People like chess players and the occasional genius that can remember a significant amount of numbers or words on a page.

Eidetic memories are questioned constantly for their accuracy. Scientists and psychologists work to disprove the idea that photographic memories exist through experiments that test their memory. For example, Alan Searleman from St. Lawrence University in New York conducted a study where he flashed a picture on a screen and asked those that claim to have eidetic memories to describe the image in detail. The subjects could, but not without error. This produced the question that works to contradict the idea of photographic memories which is: if a person had a photographic memory, meaning they could recall an image exactly as it appeared, how could there be room for error?

So, the skeptics produced another explanation for these types of learners, they simply have incredible memories. There is no sense in going above and beyond by referencing these people as “editikers” when in fact they cannot recall a picture perfectly and for an extended amount of time. Instead, these people can recall information through mnemonics and patterns.

That being said, there is one sole person in history that has ever been recorded to have a photographic memory and her name is Elizabeth Stromeyer. Her husband Charles, who attended Harvard University, tested Elizabeth, in a study to see if she really had an eidetic memory such as she had claimed. He showed her one eye a series of dots and asked her to remember it and did the same with the other eye. Elizabeth was then asked to mold the two dot formations to make an image. According to Charles, she had done it, and passed his test. However, the scientific community now questions whether she had really passed. Although he published his results in a magazine, his work became extremely criticized once it came out that he was marrying Elizabeth. To create further suspicion, she was never tested again and has been the only person documented to have an “eidetic memory” whether that is true or not.

7 thoughts on “Photographic Memory

  1. Analeigh Joy Crisanti

    This blog was very enlightening! I had absolutely no idea that a photographic memory didn’t actually exist but it does make a lot of sense after reading your post. Although part of me feels that the name just changed to a credible memory because of the error that could occur which seems pointless because there is going to be error everywhere, regardless of the name. The history of Elizabeth Stromeyer was very entertaining.

  2. Mitchell Seth Korzen

    I am surprised to hear that an eidetic memory is no more than an anomaly. Everyone I have heard talk about eidetic memory thought they were 100% real and that some people were just born with this gift that others are not. After reading your article I can see why this is true. But would it ever be possible to obtain an eidetic memory, and if so how could it happen?

  3. lmm6078

    I always wanted to have a photographic memory. You know how much that would help you in life. You could ace every test, not have to prepare for anything, and basically remember anything ever told to you. Ohh how I wish I could have it right now.

  4. Thomas Curran

    I have always wished that I had a memory where I could just see something once and picture it again, but I do not. I was stunned when I read that scientists had disproved this theory of having a photographic memory because I have always thought that some people have one. This debate of whether or not having a photographic memory is possible could definitely be tested on a larger scale though to make sure the results are legitimate. By testing only one person at a time gives the experiment no other people to compare to. Overall a very interesting and controversial topic to study!

  5. Alexander William Beitel

    I recently made a post regarding what exactly memory is and the science behind it. I was surprised to find that scientists are still unable to explain much of what makes up memory. Although they can describe the process, they are unsure of what happens when individuals actually experience recollection. For this reason, I was not too surprised to read that there isn’t any scientific evidence to support photographic memory. However, I believe that in the future, science will be able to explain the topic further and one day there will be a science behind such a gift that I was not blessed with.

  6. Grace K Hayba

    I found your article very interesting because I have always wished I could have a scientific memory. I feel as though it would come in extremely handy for studying for tests and for remembering everyday things. I have never been very good with remembering names of new people, and since coming to PSU with nearly 40,000 students, having a photographic memory would be useful now more than ever! Great blog and interesting sources!

  7. Martin Anthony Lazzaro

    My brother claimed to have one in his early adolescence youth. That claim was shot down quickly when he never did well on tests. I think a lot of people love to use the phrase “photographic memory” about themselves to impress. (not saying you are) I think they exist but obviously a lot less than claim to have one. Here is an article I found interesting when a witness claimed to have had a photographic memory in court, a place where recollection is almost always skewed. http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/a-witness-can-t-have-photographic-memory-says-court/133790.html

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