Is Photographic Memory Real?

Is photographic memory real?


Ever since I heard about photographic memory as a kid, I was always fascinated and pretty jealous of the people who could just look at a picture or a page on a book and just memorize it.

I mean if I had photographic memory, I know I would have probably done a lot better in high school. I wanted to do some research and really figure out if photographic memory is actually a thing, or if it is just what smart people tell everyone else to make themselves seem cooler.

I did some research on the internet and there is actually a more scientific name for photographic memory, eidetic imagery. Eidetic imagery is defined as a normal subjective visual image experienced with noticeable vividness whether evoked by an actual external object or not. So to explain that, you can put a picture in from of an eidetiker for 30 seconds, then remove it, and the person will confidently claim to still see the picture in their head. They can describe the picture just like it is still in front of them. The funny thing about people with photographic memory describe the objects or images in their head in the present tense as if they are looking at it right then and there.


Eidetic memory is different then just memorizing or learning something. It is kind of cheating the system and storing the image in your head without fully learning it. You may think that you could have this photographic memory because you can remember a photo that was taken or a page from a book really well, but the difference with eidetic memory is that their memories will fade away involuntarily. They usually tend to last for a half a minute to several minutes only. During that time period is when the person will go over it in their head so they can learn it without using their photographic memory. There is a lot of psychology that goes into this, and you can read more about it here.

So you must think, how can I get this? The thing is that mostly younger people have it, it there is no research that adults possess this ability to form eidetic images. So it seems that really you get it or you don’t and it could fade away the older you get as the worse your memory gets. Which is unfortunate, because I am sure buys adults could really benefit from using this imagery.

So in the end, photographic memory is real, it is just called eidetic imagery, and it might not be as literal as having a storage of photos of things in your head. But there definitely is evidence that this phenomenon is real. If you have any thoughts on this, or you know anyone who has photographic memory, comment on this post and talk about it!

8 thoughts on “Is Photographic Memory Real?

  1. Johnna Nicole Hayward

    I found your post really intriguing because I often find myself using this so called “eidetic imagery”. For example, when I make flashcards to study I don’t necessarily memorize the exact words on the card, but rather what the card looks like and then mentally fill in the blanks. Since I find this topic so relatable I decided to look into it more and found a great article from Scientific American . This article argues that nearly everyone has a photographic memory and states it is simply the case that “visual material is much better and more detailed than our recall of most other kinds of material”. Our brains often find it easier to remember images rather than specific details. The article gives the example that many of us are better at recognizing someone’s face rather than remembering their name. But this still poses the question…why are some of us better as using eidetic imagery than others?

  2. Celine Elizabeth Gosselin

    I don’t know if anyone ever read these books as a kid, but when I saw this blog post I immediately thought about the Cam Jansen mystery series for elementary schoolers. I was always so jealous and amazed to think that someone could look at a picture, say “click”, and remember all the details for later use. I didn’t really think much about the actual statistics and facts that could make this possible, but I found it really interesting here to read that the pictures go away after a few minutes and before they do, people with eidetic memory have to memorize them in their head. It’s not that these people have a super power, they just have some extra time to commit the information to memory in detail without needing to see the source material.

  3. Cassidy Paige Heiserman

    Photographic memory has always interested me. My best friend since kindergarten now goes to Penn, and I was always jealous of the way he was able to memorize everything through having a photographic memory. It is true that this is more common in children, but my great grandmother had a photographic memory. At age 90 she could tell you vivid details of things from years even decades before hand. This leads me to wonder if there is a gene for photographic memory.

  4. clh5719

    Photographic memory has always been a phenomenon that amazed me from a young age. In 2010 I came across a video of a man who was able to draw NYC almost to perfection after having sitting in a 20 min helicopter ride along its’ coast. Here video also dabbles into the science behind the neural differences that allows someone to obtain this “photographic memory”.

  5. czc5448

    This is a fascinating blog post. I would have never guessed photographic memory was a real thing. I, like you mentioned, always thought it was just smart people saying they could memorize information so easily. I was always jealous of them because I have a terrible memory. What is really weird though is that I can remember some of the most random things vividly. Like I can remember a lot of things from my childhood so perfectly, but cannot memorize information for a test. This makes me wonder, would this be eidetic memory or a different kind of memory?

  6. Montana Telman

    In response to Katherine I’d have to say yes and no to that question. People could very well have a photographic memory, but for personal experience I’ve had moment where I can’t remember a fact straight from memory, but I can picture the worksheet it was from and be able to “see” what that fact was.
    In response to the blog post I wonder if there is anything other than eidecit memory? There’s so much known and unknown in the scientific world that I wonder if it goes deeper than just that. Science has been able to prove other type of incredible memory like eidecit memory, people who can rattle off information in split seconds and be 100% correct all of the time. As a child I was able to see pictures of what I needed to know on a test in my head. So your post prompted me to look up some stuff about photographic memory tests in children and surprisingly one woman found that 1 in every 20 children shows signs of eidecitness which is definitely a lot more than what I thought, I wonder what happens as we age, is it just the imagination gets less and less broad so we loss the ability?
    Link to study:

  7. jpz5127

    I was always someone skeptical about whether or not a photographic memory was actually real and this post did help clear a lot of the questions up. It is interesting that what most of us perceive as a photographic memory isn’t true and in reality it is only a vivid picture of something for a minute or two before the memory fades away. After reading your post I wanted to read a bit more on photographic memories in adults and found and interesting article attached below that goes more in depth of the testing used for adult photographic memories and how after testing over a million people, only one has ever passed the test and even that is being questioned. Great post that does raise interesting questions!

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