Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What is a photographic memory?

  1. Feb 13, 2004 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Just curious.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In my case; one that needs developing!
  4. Feb 14, 2004 #3
    Probably rather different (yet similar) then an auditory one, words, and thoughts, outside of 'pictorally' or scenic memory....
  5. Feb 14, 2004 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Photographic or eidetic memory appears to have different interpretations from what I've seen.

    I was surprised to see that one of the common definitions seems to be the ability of a person to look at a picture or scenario and for the next few minutes they can actually continue to see it before it fades.

    I have always been curious about the way people remember things. I'd like to hear how other people here "remember".

    I have long term "visual" memory, but it doesn't fall into the classifications I have seen of "photographic" memory.

    For instance when I recall something I've read, I see the actual book and the text on the page, often also the surroundings, like I'm looking at a snapshot. The same for recalling conversations, I see the other person and can describe their clothing, hair, etc... because I actually "see" the converstaion I am remembering. My memory is a big photo album where I can just "pull" a snapshot of what I need at any time. With the chronic lack of sleep lately, I am getting worse at finding the "snapshots".

    Studying doesn't work for me, I skim through the material and then "pull" out what I need from my memory.

    But I don't consider myself what some people term as a "visual" person. I don't have to see something to understand it, actually I am more "auditory" when it comes to understanding.
  6. Feb 14, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In common parlaince, the term "photographic memory" is used to describe the capacity for total recall; the ability of certain rare individuals to recall any and every bit of information to which they have ever been exposed. For such individuals, the act of seeing (or otherwise detecting) information and the act of memorising are one and the same, so glancing at a preiodic table of ellements (for example) would be the same as studying or memorising the periodic table of ellements.

    I get insanely jealous just thinking about them !
  7. Feb 14, 2004 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2004
  8. Feb 14, 2004 #7
    I believe that the 'Memory' part of remembering, leads to action deep within the mind, I have a recolection of reading a Theory wherby the Mind capture's images similar to 'shutter's' on a Camera. There was a suggestion that the least amount of time that the image is allowed to appear, the greater the impact for a person to remember it?

    It had something to do with, I cannot remember the exact terminology, but it was a 'BLIP?' or I believe it's the effect of short-time suggestive images that Advertisers etc..etc use in order to influence you to but things, there is a name for it (looks like it aint effected me ),actually it was a SUBLIMINAL/STROBE like intrusion into your Subconsciousness!

    I do recall when I was working with some local mates, we were all gathered around at the start of a shift waiting for the Foreman to come and allocate our workday, and the subject was Memory and Memorizing. Some Guys were arguing that they had amazing powers of observation and instant Clear memory.

    Now one person was adamant that He could clearly remember being wheeled around in a Buggy by his mother, and reckons he was nearly one years of age?..he could describe all the local streets..clothes people wore..etc..etc. Eventually everyone was amazed at his adamant Clear memory, and no amount of argument could be made to explain that it was surely not a 'True' visual account.

    Anyway everyone started describing their earliest 'Memory Moment', as there was about 14 people there..there was some unusaul Memories being discussed, but nobody could 'TOP' the Person who by know was feeling quite full of himself..as I was last in line so to speak.. and just as the Foreman was approaching us, the 'Photographic Memory Man' turns to Me and asks:What is the earliest Memory do you have Paul?...I reply I can remember Climbing into the Egg!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2004
  9. Feb 14, 2004 #8
    I don't know if I have photographic memory but seems like I can remember equations after I see it. For a very long time, like 6 months without looking at it again.
  10. Feb 29, 2004 #9
    Humm...had though about this a bit, and it's sorta like the only manner that I could use to describe my thoughts, are as "sensations" not really auditory, but I can do sound, not really pictoral, even thought I can do pictures, too, more like kinestetic.....feely, "palpably sensable" something like that.......
  11. Jan 4, 2007 #10


    User Avatar

    Making analogies with computer science is mildly pseudoscientific but fun! :)

    Here it goes.. starting with an example to set up the scene.
    When you see the "Coca-Cola" logo, you identify it as being the "Coca-Cola" logo, and when you will recall that white text on red background, you will know what it is.
    But... can you draw it?
    Take a pencil and draw it! Most people will fail miserably.
    Because the "normal" memory is lazy and just uses the meanings of items (in the same ways Java / C# use pointers to objects).

    Photographic memory is the exact opposite. Photographic memory isn't concerned with the "meaning" of a memory, instead it just cares about the "image data" of the memory itself.
    Spotting the license number of a speeding car involves the photographic memory: like an imprint in some area of the brain you can spell out the letters (meaning) afterwards and yes, you can train to do this, too. :)
  12. Jan 4, 2007 #11
    I wonder if the original poster will photographically remember this thread.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
  13. Jan 4, 2007 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That's incredible.
  14. Jan 4, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    You're just like me when it comes to recalling material.

    I certainly won't complain about it. :biggrin:

    I myself am also curious to how other people remember. Is it visual images like us or not?

    So, if you're similiar to me, when recalling material, you remember basically where in the book it is right? Like I'll know if it's the last line or such and such. So, when finding a reference, it won't take long.
  15. Jan 4, 2007 #14


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, I can skip right to what I'm looking for, with only having glanced through the material once. It kills people.
  16. Jan 4, 2007 #15


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    It's awesome though.

    It's like your whole life is a movie. For me anyways.

    My memory serves me pretty well. I actually had a conversation with a friend the other day about it. It seems that he needs to write things down to recall them easier. He does this about girls he likes, and would like to remember their ideas and such. Anyways, it came down to he doesn't really remember that stuff. But for me, I don't really have a choice. I don't remember everything, but I remember lots.

    So, is it the same for you? Like, you have a pointless conversation, but you remember it for like the next few years! I do and I don't have a choice most of the time. :frown:
  17. Jan 5, 2007 #16


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You need photographic memory to keep straight all the features, pros and cons of different models of digital cameras. :bugeye:
  18. Jan 5, 2007 #17
    My mother has a talent known as "perfect pitch". When I play an incorrect note on the piano, she calls out the correct note even from another part of the house. My father had an excellent sense of taste and could tell you the spices in a dish that someone else had cooked. I exhibit no such talents. My camera has a photographic memory stick.
  19. Jan 5, 2007 #18
    Yes, I do that too. But I need to have looked at the book for a long time to get to that stage, so I wouldn't say my memory was photographic (unless you say it has a very long exposure time!).

    I remember in my finals, I could 'look up' equations in the books in my head - ie. turn to page 65 and read the third equation down.
  20. Jan 5, 2007 #19


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    While I was doing a computer networking course, I was lectured to by an assistent who I suspect had a photographic memory. This was in South Africa, she had scored top in the country in her final highschool year.

    I asked her a question and she gave the answer in the exact same language that was in the book, but it didn't seem that she really understood it in a philosophical way.

    Any fool can read from a book without understanding it, and probably any person with a photographic memory can read from memory without understanding it too well, so perhaps having a photographic memory has its downside, because if you can't remember things all that well you will make the effort to abstract the commonalities and draw comparisons and thereby gain a more functional understanding.

    However, if you can refer to the manual at a whim, perhaps it is only a matter of practicing to come to a functional understanding. In fact, it's probably the case that abstracting and generalising only serve the purpose of indexing the knowledge in your mind so that you can refer to it as you need it, and photographic memory won't provide a good index, although if you can remember the table of contents that shouldn't be a problem.
  21. Jan 5, 2007 #20


    User Avatar

    Maybe because I can't draw!!

    Is that really interesting? If so, that makes me have an excellent sense of taste as well!
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: What is a photographic memory?
  1. Photographic memory (Replies: 49)

  2. Photographic Memory Test (Replies: 14)