What is a photographic memory?

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  • #26
ShawnD
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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.
I remember things in a similar way. If I read a book or something I'll start to visualize what happens, and remember the visuals. If somebody asks me what the book is about, it's like trying to remember a movie I watched, then describe that movie to the person.

Studying gets very complicated because of this. I don't remember facts as much as I remember where those facts were located on the piece of paper I read. Was it on the top right? Bottom left? Left page? Was it written in black?
 
  • #27
verty
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he never had patience for phonetics or word roots and wouldn't sit still for them.
So in some sense, having such a memory could indeed hamper understanding. Very interesting.
 
  • #28
sog
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The savant, Raymond in "Rainman" had a photographic memory. Apparantly his brain developed better in areas not normal for normal humans and in doing so underdeveloped in normal areas making him an introvert.

I think such a person is shy to protect himself from seeing things that are shocking :surprised (which he shies away from) which he will have to remember photo"graphically" (the down-side to photographic memory) and stay in a safe and same routine.
 
  • #29
ShawnD
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Wasn't Raymond autistic? Being weird and strictly regimented is very typical for autistic people, and his brother even tries to unload him on a mental hospital, saying Raymond is autistic.
 
  • #30
mathwonk
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verty, i was once in an experiment on the tip of the tongue phenomenon, when you almost remember a word but not quite. in those circumstances it seems you can remember the vowels that occur in it, and the number of syllables, or roughly the sound, just not the exact word.

In my case I tried to remember the word ambergris, and i recalled it had three syllables and i thought it began with "O" which to me has a similar feel and sound to "A".

the way you induce this state is give someone the definition or a rough description and try to catch them almost recalling the word but not quite what it is. in this case it was described as a substance coming from whales and used in pefume.

the speaker's name was roger something i think, and he was a famous linguist from MIT as I recall. this was in 1965.
 
  • #31
mathwonk
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I just googled him and found him, Roger BROWN.

http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/1998/01.15/PsychologistRog.html [Broken]


the net is truly amazing, that took about 2 minutes or less.

the cited article also refers to his work on the "flashbub" phenomenon, e.g. what were you doing when you heard that JFK died, or for younger people, when you heard about the world trade center.

i think the reason i recalled his name for 40 years was that he caught me up in his entertaining lecture, and actually plunged me into the tip of the tongue phenomenon. thats entertaining elkcturing.

i also recall his last words were that no teaching should ever be done by lecturing to people. we all loved his lecture though and applauded vigorously as i recall.
 
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  • #32
verty
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I just googled him and found him, Roger BROWN.
Coincidentally, I happen to have his book "Social Psychology" although I haven't read it yet. So many books, so little time.
 
  • #33
mathwonk
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well i recommend anything by him based on that one lecture i heard. we were taking this posych course that was mildly interesting but the elctures were really boring. then brown gave that one lecture, and grabbed everyone's attention from the beginning and never let go.

it was the best lecture of the year, and i believe we also read his book on words and things?

anyway, i remember from his work that one loses the ability to learn spoken languages without accent after about age 19 because there are parts of the palate? that become rigid and cannot make new sounds after that.

i also remember that i was sitting near the front on the left of an auditorium, and he was walking around on the stage.

i also remember that when he finally told me the word and asked if it were the one i had in mind, i hesitated, causing everyone to laugh, assuming i had been thinking of some other word. but as a mathematician, i was merely too precise to answer yes to having the word "in mind" as I felt that if it were actually "in mind" I could have stated it.

if he had asked " is that the word you were trying to think of?", i would have said yes immediately. having been actively involved, i always remembered that as one of the best lectures i ever heard.
 
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  • #34
verty
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i also remember that when he finally told me the word and asked if it were the one i had in mind, i hesitated, causing everyone to laugh, assuming i had been thinking of some other word. but as a mathematician, i was merely too precise to answer yes to having the word "in mind" as I felt that if it were actually "in mind" I could have stated it.
I find this interesting. I imagine it must be greatly beneficial to work in an area where the language is standardised. In this case I would say it was an error of translation. He was using those words to mean the word you had been thinking of, even though those words do not typically mean that. In that, he was speaking a different language.

I recently read an interesting book called "How to read a book" and the advice from Mortimer J Adler is to identify the speaker's language so you can interpret his message. He recommends asking "what is he or she trying to say" and "how would I have phrased that?" as one reads.
 
  • #35
mathwonk
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that sounds like excellent advice. this book was recommended to us in freshman english class in 1960, or rather "expository writing", (precision again), by our instructor, Nathan Huggins, later head of afro american studies at harvard.

i only recall that adler said, or our instructor said he said, to read the table of contents to see what is in the book, before reading it. i think i never read adlers book fully.

even between two matheamtics profesors in the same department, i have heard heated arguments over how to teach calculus, where the difficulty is differing meanings of the same words. when one audits the others class he finds he does agree after all with what is being done, or with the efficacy of it, but not with how it was described.

this happens here all the time, heated disagrements betwen people who probably do not properly understand each other. it seems to beg for more patience with the other speaker.
 
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  • #36
One of the finest engineers that ever worked for me had a photographic memory. She worked with MIBs which are fiendishly complicated databases used by the telecommunication world. She could remember everything, no matter how complicated. That talent was very useful as you can imagine. She also had played oboe in a major orchestra, never having to read the music since she had the classical repertoire memorized. She had quit because she said it was boring and didn't pay well enough.

She said that the biggest drawback to having a photographic memory is that she remembered every bad thing a person had ever said or did to her. This made relationships difficult.
 
  • #37
sog
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Wasn't Raymond autistic? Being weird and strictly regimented is very typical for autistic people, and his brother even tries to unload him on a mental hospital, saying Raymond is autistic.
Perhaps I should have used the word autistic instead of introvert. He is more importantly a savant. How is it he can remember all the names in a phone book after one reading? By autism? No by being a savant that has a photographic memory I think. Check the movie and you will see he is characterized as a savant. Since autistics are totally into themselves I think it was safe for me to call him an introvert even thought he was diagnosed an autistic.

I've had students that are autistic and until I was told they were clinical autisticis I deemed them introverted, because I am not a psychiatrist. None of them were anywhere close to being a savant. They had no distinguishable abilities and were difficult to instruct. They would soon forget what I thought they learned and had to be inculcated in even the most basic things.

His brother not only didn't want to unload him, but tried very hard to keep him with him even though it cost him a large sum of money offered him to leave Ray at the institution.

I haven't seen this movie for a while and I don't have a photographic memory, but I can safely say you sure don't, unless you never seen the movie and are going on heresay.
 
  • #38
mathwonk
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i also remember everything said in a faculty meeting or preceding a vote. then when things are reconsidered the following year, and some people change their stories, i remember what was said before, but everyone else claims to have forgotten. since the past discussion is as clear as day in my memory, i really have wondered whether they were being candid, but maybe some people really do forget things.

i also used to record movies to view again. but discovered that it takes me at least 2 years to forget the movie enough to want to see it again. by then it has been on tv another two dozen times or more.
 
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  • #39
roscotz
what is the Opposite of photographic memory

Does anyone know what the Opposite of a photographic memory is? I call it the void and it causes me extreme heartache. I have never been able to being someones face to mind. I have a wonderful wife and daughter that I love greatly. However, I can not see their faces when I am away from them. When I dream, I do not see things in my dreams, I simply feel as though I am doing something in the dark. Has anyone heard of this and what can I do to correct it.

Thanks

The Void
 
  • #40
SF
  • #41
roscotz
Thank you for the information. However, this as to do with any image you can think of. Example, If I told you to bring to mind a big oak tree with a rope swing attached, you could probably close your eyes and see the tree and tell me everything about that tree. When I think of the tree, I can tell you the parts of the tree put I can not see the tree. With faces, I can not see them when they are not present. However, when I meet the person I know exactly who they are. Recently I went to one of my class reunions. Because I had not even thought of 90% of these people and had moved away right ofter graduation, I had no idea who they were. However the close friends I had, once I saw them, I knew exactly who they were.

The void
 
  • #42
JasonRox
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Thank you for the information. However, this as to do with any image you can think of. Example, If I told you to bring to mind a big oak tree with a rope swing attached, you could probably close your eyes and see the tree and tell me everything about that tree. When I think of the tree, I can tell you the parts of the tree put I can not see the tree. With faces, I can not see them when they are not present. However, when I meet the person I know exactly who they are. Recently I went to one of my class reunions. Because I had not even thought of 90% of these people and had moved away right ofter graduation, I had no idea who they were. However the close friends I had, once I saw them, I knew exactly who they were.

The void
I'll remember everyone and maybe even the details too. :eek:
 
  • #43
RWentz
Posting #21 in this thread suggests: 'Derren Brown(psychological "magician") has also trained his memory in this way, he was given about an hour to memorise a book at random from the Britsh library [...]'

I don't know whether 'Photographic (or eidetic) memory' exists, but Derren Brown certainly hasn't got either as claimed in a UK TV program from 2001 referred to in the a.m. posting. (The video can be found on YouTube - 'Derren Brown Photographic' will get you there). He does use versions of the so-called 'book test' and I know how he created the illusion of having learned the OED by heart in 20 minutes. It's not what really happened.

I cooperated in this video 'for fun', following a bet that I could get myself on telly. I think I can actually claim that I tricked Derren Brown. I am dining out on that ever since, especially at Christmas time. Tangentially I also enjoy being called a ‘miserable nerd’ by YouTube uebernerds for claiming to be 'that librarian'.
 
  • #44
DaveC426913
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He does use versions of the so-called 'book test' and I know how he created the illusion of having learned the OED by heart in 20 minutes. It's not what really happened.
Would you care to share?
 
  • #45
RWentz
Dave: I like stage magic and would normally not disclose the tricks involved to create the illusions. Derren takes liberties with the artistic licence. Here, in brief, his lazy tricks: Derren uses versions of the 'book test' which (for learning the OED 'by heart' in 20 minutes) in this instance involves inviting the 'subject' (here: the librarian) before the show / video shoot to write down page and line of a chosen word from a genuine copy of the OED on a prepared clipboard ('so that you don't change your mind') which then gives Derren the page and number for the chosen word, and at the same time allows for cameras and screens to be primed for the 'reading' from the second (truly) random book. Only two of some eight librarians attending were invited to do the actual video, only one is shown. The whole procedure took over two hours and some six assistants and technicians and were involved setting up lights and cameras.

As always, the explanation of a magic illusion tends to be much more mundane than a layperson may want to imagine. No NLP, subliminal suggestion or hypnosis was involved, and certainly no photographic memory (or photo-reading) is demonstrated.
 
  • #46
DaveC426913
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Dave: I like stage magic and would normally not disclose the tricks involved to create the illusions.
Yes, but you did crack the door open...so I stuck a foot in :wink:
Derren takes liberties with the artistic licence. Here, in brief, his lazy tricks: Derren uses versions of the 'book test' which (for learning the OED 'by heart' in 20 minutes) in this instance involves inviting the 'subject' (here: the librarian) before the show / video shoot to write down page and line of a chosen word from a genuine copy of the OED on a prepared clipboard ('so that you don't change your mind') which then gives Derren the page and number for the chosen word, and at the same time allows for cameras and screens to be primed for the 'reading' from the second (truly) random book. Only two of some eight librarians attending were invited to do the actual video, only one is shown. The whole procedure took over two hours and some six assistants and technicians and were involved setting up lights and cameras.

As always, the explanation of a magic illusion tends to be much more mundane than a layperson may want to imagine. No NLP, subliminal suggestion or hypnosis was involved, and certainly no photographic memory (or photo-reading) is demonstrated.
Yes, I've been observing Chris Angel myself. His tricks look spectacular on the surface. I was skeptical so I read up on him a bit. As I suspected, the most important thing to know about him is that he is a TV celebrity. Many of his more spectacular tricks are a result of clever editing of his footage to give an illusion of a trick more spectacular than it is. He counts on his TV audience assuming that what they're watching is an unedited sequence of events in a bona fide setting. It would be interesting to go see his stage show and observe how many of his tricks he can not do live.
 
  • #47
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I feel I have something of a photographic memory, I believe its what helped me do well in geography bees and such with the ability to "see" things on a map and such.
 
  • #48
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I got to the 24th part of the lighting sequence in that game simon on my second try...

Also one thing I have always hated is hearing people quote songs or movies and they say the wrong words
 
  • #49
RWentz
Binzing (post #47) says: 'I feel I have something of a photographic memory'

How do you know your memory is different from other people's memory or has a higher 'photographic' content than e.g. mine?
 
  • #50
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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.
Why?
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. :)
Ahh I remember watching something on discovery about some dude who could draw an entire city block in tremendous detail and accuracy. They need to give him a job in the video gaming industry for level design.
 

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