What is it Like to Have a Photographic Memory?
I can put a face to every teacher, friend, bf, acquaintance, and stranger Ive met along the way in every country and every city beginning the age of 5. I can also still recall names, dates, and lifelong back stories if I was paying attention and often times even when I wasn’t.
I never forget something people tell me directly including the words you use and the order by which they use them. If you use a different word to relate to the same meaning I’ll note the disparity in my head.
I can remember all major highways, streets, and directions in any given country and any given city for an extension of I would say of about 65 miles within a week if I was the one driving. If I go back there 10 years later I can still recall it. E.V.E.R.Y. L.A.S.T D.E.T.A.I.L
I can remember anything by touch, sound, taste, smell and feel better than I can if you tell me something more specific like your name. But I’ll remember the name by a trigger of one of the other senses. The senses thing will trigger any memory at any given time for me – a scent of a perfume, a sound of an airplane, the touch of a material.
If I read a textbook or do something for work or if I look at the actual page which I try not to most of the time I’ll remember enough that when I go to sleep at night I’ll dream of the page and read it in my sleep and even turn the pages as I’m dreaming… Which is a little creepy. I’m not going to lie. Lol
I’ve never studied. Partially because I’m ADD and partially because I knew I never had to.
But for all the reasons this can sound exciting and useful at times it is as much of a burden, responsibility, and even tormenting if you don’t train yourself to block out as much of it as you can. I can recall every bad thing I’ve ever done, every moment someone has hurt me, every memory I’ve hurt someone else. You’re burdened with the responsibility that not only do people realize you remember these things but more importantly that you also understand them. It’s the understanding that will drive you up a wall. I can connect things where most others can’t and can experience things others never will forcing you into a reality few can live by and most will never see.
There are some pretty amazing benefits, I store an amazing amount of information, I can remember every book I have ever read, and I have read thousands.
I remember every person I have ever seen, I walk through a crowded mall, and remember people that I have only glimpsed once before. I remember every conversation I have ever had. When I say in perfect detail, I do not exaggerate. I do not remember, I relive. To me memories are as real as current time, it’s hard to differentiate real life from memories. This is because I remember every feeling, smell, taste, sound, everything I see, every thought I have. Time really has no meaning I can never really tell what is real unless I experience something really truly new, something I don’t have a memory for.
I don’t have to study, never have. I read a textbook, and I never forget it. I spend my time instead constantly searching for new information, new experiences. I almost hunger for knowledge.But what people don’t understand Is that unlike their memories, my memory doesn’t put any more weight on one memory than another. Most people only remember what their brain deems is important. I remember everything. Driving to school everyday is considered as important as my most treasured memories. My brain doesn’t stress anything. To find a memory, I have to look through a lifetime of memories. Memories that include reliving memories. I remember remembering. Needless to say this makes thinking confusing.
Another thing is I don’t dream. I’m incapable of dreaming, instead all night I replay my memories from the previous day. It should go without saying that I’m an insomniac.
I’ve never met anyone else who shares my memory type, and frankly it’s lonely. I feel like I am nothing like those who surround me and even in a crowded room I feel painfully alone. I am trapped in a world of memory, alone, and questioning what is real.
Sure there are some great benefits, but living with it has been a constant battle.
There are certainly positive ramifications:
- In college; I’ve never had to study as long as I took notes during lectures and I didn’t have to buy textbooks unless they were going to be used for independent reading and/or were interesting enough for me to want to buy them. I usually get 100% or thereabout on any test and if I miss any questions its usually because I missed a class or got lazy and didn’t take notes one day. I don’t experience any test anxiety because I know I will get an A. I can answer most people’s questions with some degree of certainty and back up my response with a reference to the research or source of my answer. I can write research papers more quickly than most people because I have the info in my head and know which references I need to collect in order to cite/back up my ideas. Professors tend to enjoy me as a student because I am knowledgeable about the topics and can participate in well-informed and interesting conversations about their work/research. I easily generate original ideas for projects and papers because I can remember and connect information from different fields and studies related to the topic.
- In regular life; I don’t get lost (photographic navigational memory). I can provide accurate information to friends and family about topics ranging from legal problems, medical problems, psychological problems, investments, business, parenting, nutrition, politics, fashion, etiquette, art, crafts, and anything else I’ve been interested enough to research (I research for fun and relaxation). I know how to fix things. I’m useful to have around and this helps me socially. I can generally come up with a relevant and amusing quote or anecdote from history or current events to amuse people with, I rock at karaoke, and no one can beat me at word games (except my brother whose strategy skills blow me out of the water during scrabble).
It’s not all good though, on a personal and emotional level its quite costly.
- In college; I feel guilty about getting As on tests I didn’t study for when really hard workers struggle to pass. I feel guilty about ruining the curve in classes that have one (and sometimes negotiate with the teacher to be removed from the curve equation, even if it might lower my scores). I hate working in groups because I end up doing more work when I have to not only carry more of the burden but also figure out how to make sure everyone looks like they’ve done an equal amount of work on the project. I hate working in groups because it takes me more time to complete projects when I generally have to spend a fair amount of time providing my group-mates with the information I have that they don’t. I am popular as a group member (particularly with average and below average peers) because working with me pretty much guarantees an A on the project– this is a disadvantage to me because I’d rather work alone but am afraid of hurting others’ feelings if I refuse to work with them. I am unpopular as a group member with better students (usually those who actually work hard to earn their grades) because I choose unconventional projects and make them very anxious with my disorganization and procrastination.I have TERRIBLE study skills because I’ve never had to develop them and I fear it will one day bite me in the ass. I am a crazy perfectionist because I know what I am capable of and will punish myself severely for failing to get an A on a test or project. I find it hard to make friends because many people dislike me since I have an “unfair” advantage and don’t have to work to get the grades they struggle to approach. I find it hard to make friends because many people who like me in spite of my “unfair” advantage find it difficult to relate to me on a personal level and seem to feel like I have super-powers or am otherwise alien. I find it hard to make friends because I don’t fit in with most other people and they find it hard to comprehend that I research for fun and would rather spend a Friday night intensely discussing potential solutions to unsolvable problems than going out to drink and socialize with random people.
Some professors dislike me because I ask questions that they don’t have the answers to or related to research on the topic that they haven’t yet read. Some professors dislike me because they feel like I am “too big for my britches,” and I often feel guilty for asking questions during class (so many questions) that are related to the topic but beyond the scope of what is being presented and often beyond the ability of others to understand when they haven’t accumulated as much information as I have about the subject.
- At work: I get bored easily because I have an insatiable drive for new information and most jobs are repetitive. I piss off my managers because they often feel like I’m making them “look dumb” and I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut if I have pertinent information. I piss off my managers because my coworkers often come to me for information and assistance instead of them. I have trouble working in groups because I usually have too much more information and I can easily dominate the discussion or make people feel like I’m being pushy. I have trouble working with other people because I often have more knowledge about any given topic we’re working on and its not actually a good thing to “always be right” about things because you can’t not remember what you remember. I have trouble making friends at work because many peers find me odd, difficult to understand, and/or feel like I threaten their chances of advancing as much as they’d like.I have a lot of trouble even deciding on a career path because I am “really good at” (and really educated about) too many subjects and in order to choose one path I would have to give up my dreams and passion for the other paths I’m not taking. At 38 I haven’t yet been able to establish a track record or formal evidence of expertise in any particular field because my memory (and number of topics I’m passionate about) makes me have high aptitude for too many things and prevents me from being able to focus on one thing long enough to make tangible progress. Worst of all, I have difficulty following through on projects because my memory is such that thinking through the problem (and figuring it out) seems like having done it completely and I then find it hard to muster motivation to take the time to finish it in real life.
- The personal costs are what I hate the most: I have trouble in relationships because I’m “always right” when it comes to facts & information that I’ve accumulated knowledge about (non experiential) and have not yet figured out how to let other people “be right” without compromising my intellectual principles and/or unfairly hoarding information I could have shared. I have trouble finding people who connect with me intellectually because while many people are as or more informed than me in their particular domain of interest it seems impossible to find others who are equally informed in a wide range of domains of knowledge. I have trouble connecting with others because I often end up feeling guilty or becoming aware of the frightening potential of manipulating or unduly influencing others when they unquestioningly accept my input as fact due to my wealth of information about everything that I am compelled to learn about– It’s frightening to feel responsible for being infallible when you know you actually are not.I am disorganized because everything I experience internally or externally triggers a memory and demands that I contemplate the connection /relationship and I am rendered effectively incapable of reliably noticing the organization/cleanliness of my home or office. I lose track of time and days because I am distracted by associative memories triggered by anything; I forget to pay my bills & cannot properly manage money because I am usually stuck in my head and lose track of time or lose the bills in the clutter I’m failing to notice. Other problems associated with being constantly reminded of something that is potentially related to whatever: I can’t keep a schedule, I forget to eat, I forget to shower (or that I forgot to eat or shower), I forget important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, I often have insomnia, I lose everything (If I were a man I’d be very grateful not to have a detachable penis), and I am always anxious that I’ve forgotten some important deadline or other task I usually forget.
I can’t remember experiences like my 21st birthday, special times with my daughter (I think its a trade off for my other kind of memory ability), my first kiss or the first time I had sex, friends and lovers I have fallen out of contact with (I somehow completely forget many people which makes me sad), or most any personal accomplishment that would probably look really good on my resume.
I feel really guilty about not being grateful for my “gifts.” I feel really guilty for not using my ability as much as I could or should have. From childhood, people have told me that I am responsible for using my gifts to improve the world, I don’t feel I have honored that responsibility and so feel guilty for letting “the world” down (irrational, I know). I fear I am arrogant; I fear that others think I’m arrogant. I struggle to achieve greater humility but have little success on that count. I sometimes worry that I’m a “bad person” because I have failed to use my abilities or live up to the potential this memory gives me.
The single worst thing for me, though, is that I feel like I’m not quite human. I don’t have many experiences others have, have not developed skills that others have developed because they require repetition or other tools to remember information, and I have many experiences that others do not have due to the differences in how my brain works. If I could feel like I “belong” somewhere or that I am really “connected” to another human being then I might feel like all the other negatives are worth it for the benefits I experience.
I don’t know if this actually answers “what it is like” to have this type of memory because it seems more like I’m simply listing the effects it has on my life. However, I don’t know what its like to NOT have this memory of mine and since this type of question requires a comparison between the two experiences… I think the question could only REALLY be answered by someone who has both had and not had this type of memory ability.
On the one hand :
I can remember nearly everything I’ve ever read, sometimes even how it is layed out on the page. Many of my answers are straight from my head as I remember my studies especially well. With my obsessive topics of interest (yay autism) I can remember EVERYTHING.
I can remember many conversations (except over the phone) verbatim for years, movies and song lyrics also stick.
If I hear a song on the radio I can recall the day of the week, the weather, and the location of where I was when it last played. I can “replay” or visualize past occurrences…
I can visualize maps in my head.
On the other hand:
I have face blindness. If I see a person out of context (like my sons speech therapist at the grocery store) I do not recognize them.
Under stress I cannot recall simple familiar information- like my address, pin number, children’s birth dates, and aquaintances/people I do not see every day names – I’m very bad at names
I cannot memorize formulas, dates, or anything with numbers.
Even though music sticks, I cannot attend to audio books or remember things read to me.
Like a previous answerer, I to have felt sad to have a cherished memory no one else recalls
Having ptsd I can be visualizing a traumatic situation in mere seconds of a trigger.
Let me just clarify what kind of memory I actually have.
I can vividly recall sight and sounds, into the tiniest detail. Without even concentrating, I can visualize people I have seen for as little as 5 minutes.
I can recall such small details as jewelry, hairstyle, make-up, etc.
Out of the approximately 80 persons I meet regularly (at least once a week), I can recall eye-colour, maybe around 5 different sets of clothing each have worn, including for example jewelry and tattoos.
I can picture people, myself, and even whole scenes in fine detail, walk through them, look at them from bird-perspective. I am even able to visualize the schoolyard from 1st grade, which is a 14 year old memory.
For me, the best thing is that I can remember what people have said to me, even years after. Almost every conversation I’ve had is stored in my memory, not matter how trivial they are.
Sounds great, right?
Well, the downsides are as many as the upsides.
Sometimes I can’t control when I visualize memories. The first notes of a song with which I have attached a memory, can trigger a full memorization.
I sometimes tend to visualize the equations and formulas my math teacher present in class, in real time. That can easily make me want to visualize the equations with various different combinations, and therefore render me much less active in lessons.
I can remember a lot of joyful experiences with my family that they can’t remember. It hurt me quite a bit the first time I mentioned a memory that they did not recall.
Only a few of my friends know that I have this kind of memory, and they all ask me the classic: Why aren’t you getting A grades all the time, in everything?
The simple answer is, that the “photographs” in my memory are so fragmented, and so cluttered that it consumes a whole lot of my energy just to memorize one thing in detail.
Edited Friday 3rd of January 2014.
Oddly, while I can’t do this with sounds or music (anymore than is typical, again; people seem to have strong memory for music and lyrics anyway), I have a great sense and memory for smells and flavors. I think it verges into a bit of synesthesia, as I tend to think of and remember flavors and smells as colored shapes. Sounds strange I know. (Emotions also have color to me, but I’ve been doing work on using color to represent emotions for years now, so I’m not sure if that’s just part of me or a result of my research. 🙂 )
I also might have tried charming girls in college at parties by tipsily recalling to them Latin poetry from books I read in high school from memory. Unsurprisingly, this was rarely successful.
Just because I have a strong memory doesn’t mean that I have an eidetic memory. True photographic and eidetic memory is extremely uncommon. There’s absolutely an exceptional few who have an eidetic memory in the strictest degree in that they literally can recall vivid details about any random day or moment in their life, but this minority is extremely small. Most people sit somewhere in the middle of being Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man and being Guy Pierce’s characer in Momento.
With regards to my experiences and creating a hopefully entertaining Quora read, I want to note a few things that you don’t get from having an exceptional memory.
- Memory != Intelligence. Just because I have a strong memory doesn’t mean I’m a super genius. I’m a pretty decently smart guy and being able to read you passages from science books in my head might be a cool parlor trick. But that doesn’t mean that I understand everything I recall.For me, the combination of letters and words is really just a pattern that I interpret to be text, speech, a math problem, etc. I can remember phrases in a language by recalling the feeling it makes to contort my mouth into saying that phrase or equations from some math textbook because they “feel” like a certain pattern. But my ability to recall them doesn’t mean that I speak that language or understand what that equation means.
Learning is about both memory and comprehension. I’ve got to do a lot of grunt work in learning the semantics and architecture behind what I’m saying, and that’s I feel like that process is independent of my ability to remember things.
- Memory is an unjournaled, non-optimized file system. This is one of the reasons why I don’t have an eidetic memory. Even though I can probably tell you a lot about what went on a certain day with pretty strong detail (particularly if there was anything significant that happened then), I still need to take time to figure out what a day or period of time was – how it correlates to my sensory information of the event.E.g.: if you were to ask me what I did on on September 12th of this year I’d have to realize that it was a week ago, work back through my memory of the last 7 days, and then I could probably tell you what happened then.
The level of detail I can muster for an day or event really depends on how important it was to me. I can still muster a decently vivid description of what I did random days, but given that I don’t have an eidetic-grade memory I wonder how much of it is pure memory and how much of it is curve-fitting that my brain is doing to “fill in the blanks.”
This is one of the reasons why it’s easier for me to remember things like passages from books and numbers. Usually these are associated with some kind of emotional or physical anchor that help me quickly “source” said passage or number. I can quote from the Things They Carried because I was touched by the book. I can pretty easily recall Aeneid I in Latin because I first read it in full right before I asked out a girl to prom.
In fact, whenever I start going off on my “Arma virumque cano…” that memory usually comes with a little bit of anxiousness and the feel and smell of warm, recently photocopied paper. I was reading/hiding behind my sheaf of copied Virgil right until I mustered the courage to vomit out a “willyougotopromwithme”.
- You are still human. This is one I learned about in college. I may have a pretty good memory, but I’ll still forget details on what goes on during a night of heavy drinking and partying. Alcohol inhibits aspects of the hippocampal function of the brain that govern short term and long term memory. I’ll still be asking “what went on last night” alongside everyone else if there was an aggressive consumption of Tequila involved. Also, if I’m really fatigued I find it difficult to capture a lot of the fine details of a scene in memory or to recall vividly events in general.
What does this mean? I have a lot of useless material clogging up my brain so I have an immediate need to discover a good storage or filing system for it!
When I first realized I had this “gift”, I would often call people out when I noticed a discrepancy in something they’ve said in the past and what they are saying at the time. Them I realized that this was not the way to win friends. It’s hard to know somebody is lying and nog say anything.
Christopher Hitchens, despite the drinking, could produce exact quotes in the heat of live debate.
For 10 years I hosted a live debate at the U of Ill at Urbana, in the Student Union, that lasted over 10 hours, once a month. At any given time there were 200-300 participants. At that time I could not only give exact quotes, I could see the page. I could see the book and locate where on the page the quote was from.I did not view this as peculiar until one person declared this an unfair advantage.This still worked as late as 15 years ago when I took a cruise on Celebrity Cruises and there was a quiz show where I not only knew the answer but could see the page.
I have almost 3000 answers here 99% off the top of my head, but was very much put off by an error concerning a Herblock Cartoon of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 campaign. I had him coming out of a Goldwater Dept Store and insulting a poor mother and child on the stairs, someone found the original and it was of him walking in front of their home in a poor neighborhood. Frankly my version is more credible. What would Barry Goldwater be doing walking alone in the slums?
My memory is of images, not words and certainly not numbers.
The first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia I remembered the whole thing. I knew something unusual was going on here and told the head of the psychology department.
Update: In Ridley Scott’s latest film, Promethius, he has an android who is obsessive about the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
I believe there is some relation among eidetic memory, Aspergers, synesthesia, and savant syndrome.I have every confidence that in the immediate future brain research will prove this.
The first day of the first grade I wore a red blazer, grey shorts,and carried a leather backpack. It was part of an obligatory uniform that could not be purchased, it had to be hand-made from required materials.
There are some subjects like History, Geography, and maybe even Biology that I just couldn’t understand completely in school. For most of these subjects, I have used a combination of my photographic memory and some random brain mapping to score high in exams. I remember the words by actually looking at an image of the page and the column the text was on. I am going to take a random example here to illustrate this:
Question: Define crevasses.
Processing: I recollect that this word was in bold on the left page of the first chapter on Glaciers in my Geography book. It was in a paragraph containing 4 lines. Now, I use my memory to recollect what those four to five lines were, and put them in my answer. The word crevasse might not always be clearly visible in the photo inside my brain, but I can recollect its location because, the length of the word and the characters match the blurred image in my brain. This has not worked flawlessly, but it is the major reason I have scored high even in subjects mentioned above. There have been times in Engineering, as well when I have used this processing to score high in subjects like Manufacturing and Technology, machining and Metrology, Advanced Physical Metallurgy from my undergraduate education. There have been times in a few subjects when I have felt awkward about the fact that I have scored perfectly on theoretical questions in an exam as compared to numerical ones.
This is the part where it gets awesome. I feel very much in control of my life because, I recollect perfectly even incidents from when I was 3 irrespective of their importance, and my memory here has failed me only few times.
- Roads and Streets in cities I visit.
- Bus routes once taken are never forgotten.
- Train and most Bus Schedules, even the local passenger trains. Helps me plan out trips perfectly.
- Faces. And most names associated with faces.(As long as I don’t have difficulty pronouncing the name. :P)
- Once I set up my calendar, I actually don’t need it anymore. I remember even non-recurring events once I have made an entry into the calendar. the events remain in my mind with the exact color coding as in my calendar.
- Searching through my mailbox or history is easy.
- I am a foodie. So I have to mention this. I recollect the prices of almost all items at food chains that I frequently go to.
- I catch people lying about incidents in the past(Well sometimes, they just forget). I usually can recall the entire context visually.
I usually surprise people with the ability to remember random incidents precisely. I wish my eidetic memory was stronger and as good as my photographic memory, but I guess the only other sense that is as well remembered as my Sight is Smell. So far, I haven’t found any use of having a good eidetic memory for smells.
I can remember things from every year of school. I can picture each of my teachers, my classrooms, some of my classmates and where they sat, things we argued about, games we played, stories we were read, strange beliefs we had, specific lessons from the teacher,assignments we had, tests we took, wrong answers I gave, etc. I don’t remember every single one of them, but certainly far more than you’d expect. I can probably tell you dozens of stories and details from every year of grade school. I didn’t always understand that everyone couldn’t do this and only recently discovered that my friends can’t remember anything from some of these years.
I once made an offhand reference to a silly game I used to play with one of my best friends growing up and he looked at me like I had six heads. He really had no clue what I was talking about. I was shocked. Shocked! It seems so clear to me.
I can remember lyrics to songs I wrote for the fake band I had with my neighbor at 7 years old. I know some of the lyrics and melodies I had to learn for our school chorus for 3rd grade, 5th grade, 7th grade, even some with foreign languages I don’t speak. Not just popular songs either, but songs I haven’t heard since. I can tell you the phone numbers of friends and family growing up, even the elementary school’s number. I recall the name of the character I played in a 4th grade Halloween play and it wasn’t an important part; I literally had one line. I remember the unit number of the patrol car a police officer showed us in 2nd grade.
I remember getting lost following my dog out an open door when I was 2; sticking my hand into the pretty blue blow torch flame when I was 4; and marching in my nursery school graduation (among other details, like playing in their kid sized kitchen and learning to sing “Frère Jacques”). I can picture the workbooks I used to learn the alphabet in kindergarten, the area of the room where we had show and tell and story time, playing post office, substitute teachers, on and on.
In first grade on the first day of school I went to the wrong room and was there until the principal came and got me. I remember projects we had, quirks about the teacher, even another kid throwing up all over our reading workbooks. I really can add another page of details from just that year. And the next. And the next.
I haven’t been to Disney World since I was 6 years old but I can recount many details from the trip…and not just the exciting stuff but stupid things like carrying around a belly bag and putting crispy chinese noodles in it. I went to the Statue of Liberty once when I was 8 or 9 and yet I still remember what the tour guide said about its height (22 stories). I have no other reason to know that but I just Googled it to confirm.
I have an obscenely encyclopedic knowledge of movie and tv quotes and the ability to call them up instantly. Everything reminds me of something I’ve seen on TV. It’s hard to know which things someone will get and so I alternate between being that weird guy that makes random references that need to be explained and being that awesome guy that’s always quick with the perfect reference.
In many high school classes I would rarely take notes. Sometimes it caused problems. Not problems with grades, problems with teachers and other students. I went virtually the entire year getting A’s in 8th grade math without taking a single note before the teacher one day noticed my empty desk and asked why I wasn’t taking notes today, as if I ever had. I don’t think anyone had ever called me out before and I didn’t know what to say, so I said “Oh!” and just acted like I totally forgot. I felt like the entire class was laughing at me and I think one girl said “what an idiot” or something like that. This situation repeated itself many times in other classes over the years and I tried many different tacts depending on the teacher and how bold I was feeling. Sometimes I would just fake it when I was actually doodling. Usually I was sitting there with a blank page the entire time, but angled so they couldn’t see. Other times I was more blatant about it and invited the confrontation. To one teacher, I was kind of a jerk and said outright, “I will if you want me to but it would just be for you.” She was actually really cool about it and said I didn’t have to, but then several of my classmates hated me (not truly, just friendly envy) and always tried to see how I did on the tests. I was not a consistently straight A student (mostly because I skipped a lot of homework) but happened to be in that class, except I would lie to the girls I sat next to and tell them I got Bs so they wouldn’t feel bad. No fewer than 3 of them wrote about it in my yearbook.
Not every teacher was as understanding. My biology teacher demanded that I take notes, despite my insistence that I learn better if I can fully think about what’s being said and not worry about writing it down. She was so adamant that I can’t possibly learn better that way that she vindictively changed the grading system for the entire class and began regularly collecting and grading everyone’s notes to spite me. I was super popular in that class too.
In college my friend joked that I had a “universal notebook” because I carried the same one to every class. I did jot down some notes depending on the class, but the same one would usually last me the entire semester with room to spare. I’m not talking about one of those thick “5 subject” notebooks but a fairly thin legal pad, except letter sized.
Having a really strong memory can also make you socially awkward at times. I don’t mean that in the conventional sense, I socialize just fine, but you have to tone down how sure you are about things that you remember perfectly. It’s a little like the way I learned to consciously dumb down my vocabulary, but that’s for another question.
Another negative is that I can vividly recall every time I said or did something stupid. Believe me, there have been many, many times over the years and I feel a strong sense of regret with all of them. You’d be surprised how inconsequential these things are. I remember sitting on line waiting to leave gym class in fifth grade and our teacher wasn’t there yet so the gym teacher had to kill time by quizzing us on current events in sports. It was 1994 and the winter olympics were going on that year so she asked who won an event the night before. I knew the answer was Australia but had recently heard of Austria for the first time and thought it was just a cool way of saying Australia, so I wanted to be cool and say it the shorter way. I raised my hand and got it wrong. Big deal, right? Well, I felt stupid and so it goes in the memory bank. I have no earthly reason to remember that but I obviously do, along with 600 other totally insignificant “regrets” on that level.
So what do you think? Do you want my memory? I don’t feel like it’s that special but it seems to be pretty unusual relative to others.
With all this said, my memory is so far from eidetic it’s not worth thinking about. Despite remembering the lyrics from songs I learned more than 20 years ago, I’m actually not good at learning the lyrics to songs I hear all the time. I have just as much trouble as anyone else memorizing lists, scripts, poetry, directions, quotes from books, etc. I’m terrible with names of people I just met and am no better than anyone else at remembering faces. I’m not especially good with numbers and can’t keep too many in my head at once– but I can tell you George Washington’s birthday because I did a report on him in third grade and Abe Lincoln’s birthday because they said it in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You’d want me on your pub trivia team, but it’s not good for much else.
However, I see a blurry image in my mind for the things that I do remember. This only helps me in 2 rare aspects of my life.
- Every time I tell you a piece of information, I can tell you what medium I read it from, and what it was called. So I could mention something I read from a newspaper in conversation, and tell you what newspaper I read it from. This has got me nicknamed encyclopedia at times
- In exams when I’m answering questions, if I have revised for the exam beforehand using an old exam paper, I will see a blurry image with some of the words, including the words I wrote on the page, to help me answer the question.
This comes with disadvantages.
It is hard for me to take in lots of information at once.
- When revising for 2 exams at once, everyone revised 75-100% of the old exam paper. I could only revise a third of it. I failed both exams and now have to resit those modules. I am absolutely rubbish at exams, and I have to revise 2 months in advance to have a chance of passing them. I couldn’t meet the 40% pass mark, getting 1 or 2 marks off, a maximum of 15 questions. I don’t know how I’m going to pass university.
- I am rubbish at remembering numbers. Yet I remember important phone numbers and my pin code because they’re important.
- When talking to me with lots of words about new stuff, you might notice that there’s a part of your message that I obliviously skipped. Some of the sentences I know you’ve said, don’t actually compute in my brain. It takes me a while to realise that I’ve overlooked something, so I have to think back to remember what I’ve overlooked.
- I am not observant in any way. I walked out the Fish and Chip shop and dropped my change on the grey concrete. It was right in front in my face right next to the copper coin I picked up. I couldn’t find the silver 20p coin, no matter how hard I looked. I’m rubbish at noticing changes in things. Another time some Muslim girl in my class had a newly acquired headscarf on, to dedicate herself to her religion. Her and some other girl asked me to spot what was different about her. I couldn’t get it no matter how many guesses I did. The irony is that I had trouble recognising her when she said hello to me earlier, because her face was covered. My brain just skips that sort of stuff.
So I would like to say, that there are no advantages or disadvantages to having my type of memory. It takes with one hand, and gives with the other. It’s really good at certain things, but it makes up for it in other ways.
PS. If you’ve ever had a comment thread with me on this website or anything, I haven’t forgotten what you’ve said to me, because I have made an active effort not to forget any of your words to me. That’s how good my memory is. I just don’t have direct access to it now. I hope Gary Rutz doesn’t reply to this answer and talk about Gringotts.
2. I can’t forget things — passage of time has very little effect. Memories are always fresh in my mind. I have to use rules of thumb, e.g., one year is a long time for most people, etc.
Basically I have to really enjoy a film in order to watch it more than once. A positive aspect of this is that the first time I watch a film, I make an effort to really enjoy it. I’ll usually watch it again shortly afterward just to freshen my perspective, and then that’s it. Oftentimes I may think I want to watch a film, only to turn it off after a few minutes because there is nothing new for me to see, and I’m almost immediately bored with it. It will be years before I feel ready to review it, but it’ll only be to verify that I haven’t misplaced a detail, in essence.
Same problem applies to books. I typically read it twice, then it will rarely be read again. If it wasn’t that great or was rather simple, I’ll read it once and it will go back on the shelf. Ask me to recall the plot line and I’ll give you a summary of the entire story, and can expound on points throughout.
Then there’s things I’d rather not remember. Unfortunately, forgetting for me is not an easy thing, so I consider it a miracle when I can finally avoid dredging up a memory I would rather never recall again. Not to mention that often the slightest thing can essentially bring up the entire file cabinet related to that item, so to speak. It can be handy when someone needs information, or it can be a royal pain.
But it has it’s pros: I can count on one hand the times I’ve actually studied for an exam, at least longer than a simple 10 minute review. That’s not always a good thing, I suppose, but I really haven’t needed it.
If someone has a question on anything, I’m usually the one they turn to.
I also find it useful and nice to be able to simply picture a memory, and review it as if my mind were a DVR with no storage limit.
I can also recall conversations with ease.
That being said, it all requires a good deal of tact, and learning when to correct and when to let it pass. It’s something I’m still working on, as my personality type (INTJ) tends toward being poor at recognizing emotions, as well as being forthright.
Wouldn’t trade the memory ability, though. Very glad to have it.
I have always envied those persons with a great memory and never realized the down side until I read some of the remarks re this subject.
I am now 89 years old, always liked my job, happily married, have great children and 31 years of retirement.
Wikipedia article on Funes the Memorious: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…
Life is very hard. I do not remember my childhood, other than some fleeting images here and there. I wish I had 10% the capability of a eidetic memory.
I’m 30 something. Now I do have the ability to read large amounts of information and scan it for keywords, it is if my brain is very selective on what it stores, like a filter.