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1165017.  Thu Dec 24, 2015 6:07 pm Reply with quote

Qualified Intermediary (2015. Hopefully I am allowed to post this here without getting in a lot of trouble.)

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Think for a moment and answer this question.

Do you know anyone that has a photographic memory? A brother, sister, aunt, or uncle? A friend perhaps?

Do you have your answer?

If you answered yes, then you would be wrong. Nobody has a photographic memory.

The only real, and real in a sense that it is more or less not real, documented case to the powers of a photographic memory is in a 1970 study conducted by Harvard scientist Charles Stromeyer III. The study involved a Harvard student named Elizabeth. In the study Stromeyer showed Elizabeth's left eye a set of 10,000 dots one day and another day he showed her right eye a second set of 10,000 dots. After seeing those two images Elizabeth fused together to form an autostereogram , a single-image stereogram crafted to give the illusion of a three-dimensional view from a two-dimensional image akin to the popular "Magic-Eye Images"* ,which Stromeyer used, with other findings, to publish his study in the journal Nature.

However the case of Elizabeth has often met with skepticism. A number of factors have cast doubt on the validity of her memory abilities. They include that methods used in testing procedures could be considered questionable, the fact Stromeyer married Elizabeth shortly after the study, that the tests have never been repeated as Elizabeth has consistently refused to repeat them, and the list goes on. Elizabeth has still maintained that she has memory abilities that she exhibited in the 1970 study.

It is possible that the people you know to have a photographic memory ,or at least claim to have it, have one of several forms of what is known as exceptional memory; Although it should be said that only a small number of people truly have one of these forms.

They include:
-Hyperthymesia: A condition shown by exceptional autobiographical memory regarding stories and events in people's lifetimes. With a notable case involving a woman , Jill Price, known as AJ in the scientific world who had the ability to recall, in great detail, every day of her life from when she was 14 years old.

-Eidetic (eye-deh-tik) memory: A condition , mostly closely associated with the popular belief of photographic memory, marked by the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects within memory with only a few instances of brief exposure with high precision for some time after the exposure. This condition is almost exclusively seen in those in early childhood with only around 2 - 10% of the age group with the condition, not connected with an individual's intelligence, and is often lost if not nurtured. Few adults are known to have it with reported examples, including Nikola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci, John von Neumann, and Elizabeth to name a few.

-Mnemonists: Referring to those who have the peculiar ability to remember long lists of info, including numbers, names, places, etc. Often those referred to as mnemonists used a technique of a mnemonic device. A mnemonic device is a memory aid used to help the person remember and recall information and are usually verbal such as a specific phrase, word , and/or word association that the individual is familiar with.

-Savants: Savants are those who have mental disabilities, but exhibit profound capabilities within the far reaches of what would be considered normal. Notable cases include Stephen Wiltshire, British architectural artist with autism who is known for his ability to draw from memory a landscape after seeing it just once, and Kim Peek who was an American megasavant born with macrocephaly (abnormally large head) who was the inspiration for the character Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 movie Rain Man.

Most people you will meet that exhibit memory abilities that seem to be photographic in quality more than likely just have really good memories.

Don't delude yourself or others into thinking that you or someone else has a photographic memory.

*Those images still annoy me every time I look at them. How do you look past the picture? I cannot see the spaceship. How does anyone see the spaceship?

Works Cited

"Autostereogram." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 June 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Beard, Robert, Dr, and Lyn Laboriel, Dr. "Eidetic." AlphaDictionary. N.p., 21 June 2010. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Borowski, Susan. "The Brilliant and Tortured World of Nikola Tesla." AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) MemberCentral. N.p., 29 May 2012. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

"Eidetic Memory." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

"Exceptional Memory." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Foer, Joshua. "No One Has a Photographic Memory." Slate. Graham Holdings Company, 27 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Gordon, Barry. "Does Photographic Memory Exist?" Scientific American. C/o Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Halmos, P. R.. “The Legend of John Von Neumann”. The American Mathematical Monthly 80.4 (1973): 382–394. Web...

"Kim Peek." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

"List of People Claimed to Possess an Eidetic Memory." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Rajamanickam, M., M.A., M.Litt., Ph.D. "Chapter- 13 , Memory, Photographic Memory." Modern General Psychology. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Concept, 2007. 434. Google Books. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

"Stephen Wiltshire." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Stromeyer, C. F., and J. Psotka. "The Detailed Texture of Eidetic Images." Nature 225.5230 (1970): 346-49. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>. This reference/source included for purpose of identifying a specific study mentioned in this essay.

Thomas, Nigel J.T., "Mental Imagery", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>. Source used in research is listed under Section 1 as "Supplement: Other Quasi-Perceptual Phenomena"

Weller, Chris. "The Great Hoax Of Photographic Memory." Medical Daily. IBT Media, 06 June 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2015. <>.

Further Reading + Personal Notes
(I wanted to use this in my essay but I actually forgot about it and had completed the essay by the time I remembered.)
(I was going to do a topic on de Groot and his famous chess experiments but I forgot about that too. Too many things at once.)


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