What is it Like to Have a Photographic Memory?

Below are the discussions of people who have a photographic memory including both pros and cons.  I’ve met some (none below) in my life. They were great at taking tests and can be valuable in some situations, like people with a high IQ they have weaknesses in other situations (when they rely on the memory only and it requires input from multiple sources to navigate a situation (many times social) successfully.  Common sense is underrated sometimes as is street smarts.  Nevertheless, it is a unique gift that is quite handy.  Attribution is at the end.
Well if you’re anything like me you won’t be aware that you have it until others repeatedly point it out and you have an aha moment that it maybe true. Up until a psychiatrist recently documented it on paper I thought it was just a personality quirk. LolI’ve spent the majority of my life trying to both unconsciously and consciously block this ability so I’m not certain how far it extends for me today. However from my experience I can still remember when my parents got remarried in a roman style basilica looking church to the last detail. I can recall its stain glassed windows and the figures etched across them, the echo that bounced off its wall, the color and style of my mother’s long flowing dress, and the types of flowers she put in my hair when I sat on her lap. I was 4 years old at the time.

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.

Painful. I remember every detail of every second of every day perfectly. I can tell you the license plate number, make, and model of every car I have ever driven behind.
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.


Juliette Creech, Currently writing my thesis to complete my MA in Counseling Psychology

I have a semi-photographic memory in that I can remember the content of most anything I’ve read and sometimes visually remember where the information is on the page or how far into the book/article it is.  I don’t generally remember the names of the author or possibly the article/book but can usually find it with the specific information I do remember.  I have almost no autobiographical/experiential memory ability and that usually feels like an unfair price to pay :-)What is it like?  It’s complicated.

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.

Allan Nielsen, Omnischolar

I do not think I fall into the “eidetic memory” category, although I have a superb photographic and auditory memory.There are of course several pros, but there are also quite a few cons.

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.

Mike Sellers, Entrepreneur, game designer, AI researcher, dad

I don’t have “superior autobiographical memory” by a long shot, but I do have some degree of eidetic memory. I’m afraid it’s faded from when I was a teenager, when it seems to have been strongest, but it’s still there.I remember things visually very clearly. I used to be able to take a quote from a page I had read by “re-reading” it in my mind; occasionally I can still do that (it was great for studying in high school and college!). More often now it’s more of “the quote I’m looking for is on the left-hand page in the first column, about an inch below the diagram on that page.” That sort of thing. I remember images, artwork, visual events in my life very clearly (but I don’t think I remember many more of these events than is typical). I’ve been able to draw scenes or images long after having seen them with good to excellent correspondence (and sometimes, perfect correspondence in what might seem like odd details, but which my brain for some reason latched onto).

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. 🙂 )

Andy Manoske, Observer on PlayHaven and BandPage BoD

I have an exceptional memory. I have the ability to recall things like patterns (patterns of numbers, words, etc.), images, and experiences with pretty strong detail.I’ve used it in things like memorizing speeches, quiz bowl, acting as a GPS for my friends and family in places I’ve driven, and spelling bees: as long as I’ve read or heard that word before on somewhere like Wikipedia or an encyclopedia I can usually just read you the letters from memory.

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.
Barbara Buckley, Animal lover, Constant seeker of knowledge

I have a semi-eidectic visual memory. I can visualize my written notes on any subject, long after I have written them. This has been advantageous when taking tests in school or remembering geographic or historic data and visual details. I also believe and have been told that I can remember details of my life and of those I have come in contact with as far back as when I was 2 years of age.I have read thousands of books and have a visual memory of the covers and pages. I began reading the newspaper at 4 years of age. I am now 51, and seem to have an intact visual memory. I do not have the same ability with numbers, engineering, architectural drawing, or artistic ability. I am a competent and interesting writer (so I have been told and have been published.)

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!

I don’t have a photographic memory, but I do have the ability to remember most conversations. I can remember, word for word, conversations that happened as long as fifteen gets ago.Some say this is a gift, but it is more like a curse. When you remember every word, you realize quickly that almost everybody lies. Their stories change from week to week or even day to day.

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.

Fred Landis, Investigative Reporter

The only good thing to come out of the 60 Min show which focused on Marilou Henner is that the people were normal and successful, rather than like the movie Rainman. But the focus is still on a particular kind of eidetic memory which focuses on dates.
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.

Sashwat Mishra, Analyzing people since 1991.

Well, here’s my contribution to this. I have a very strong photographic memory, and maybe an eidetic memory just a bit over most others. Eidetic memory includes recollection of experiences involving other senses as well. To me this has been a boon, the only bane being that I get irritated when I cannot recollect something trivial.I will approach this from two sides: Academics and Life.

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.

  1. Roads and Streets in cities I visit.
  2. Bus routes once taken are never forgotten.
  3. Train and most Bus Schedules, even the local passenger trains. Helps me plan out trips perfectly.
  4. Faces. And most names associated with faces.(As long as I don’t have difficulty pronouncing the name. :P)
  5. 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.
  6. Searching through my mailbox or history is easy.
  7. 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.
  8. 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’ve been able to clearly recall several days (to the date) of every week of my life since I was roughly twelve or thirteen, although this baseline age increases with time. It hasn’t really helped me with much, or impacted me at all, other than propagate my compulsion to order everything in my life chronologically and feel mental stress when I cannot correctly connect a cause-and-effect situation. It also makes a good party trick. People often throw dates at me (“January 26, 2008!”) and I am able to say with certainty which day of the week it was, what I did (or anything eventful that happened that week, as sometimes nothing happens at all in high school—although I remember all my class schedules), what I was wearing, sometimes even specific conversations I’ve had with people.Sometimes I play games in which I try to recall what I was doing, on this current date, one year ago, two years ago, three years ago. I guess this helps refresh my memory reserves but I draw a lot more enjoyment out of this sort of thing than other people when I try to involve them.

Ross Cohen, just a guy with lots of interests

I have a very good memory. I wish it was eidetic but sadly it’s not. However, I can tell you a little about having an above average memory.Here are a few points that come to mind…

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.


It’s great, but it can also be awkward when flirting with people who don’t have that level of mental capacity. Especially when they say they don’t remember some time you spent with them recently. Having an eidetic memory can be especially awkward when trying to relate to people who are obviously highly intelligent but clearly do not have an eidetic memory. They tend to think you’re crazy for your recollections and give you this look like you’re nuts or even creepy for allegedly remembering everything you’ve ever seen. Heaven forbid. This level of being a somewhat visual person can be taken for granted and misunderstood.Also, I have ADD, and it took years before I realized that I had an eidetic memory and that this eidetic memory was apparently not something that everybody has. I always thought having a photographic memory meant being able to memorize what I saw on paper instantaneously, but quite frankly, having an eidetic memory means recalling in vast detail what I’ve experienced and seen and what I know. My mind filters through what I don’t understand, although with time, my memory and its accuracy improves (probably because the vastly detailed memory of what I’ve seen becomes more clear with added understanding of that memory, which can only be achieved with time). This has all been confirmed by a neuropsychiatrist by the way, although that really doesn’t matter now, does it?

Bruce Feldman, Amateur speculator.

There are supposedly 6 people in the US (that are known) who can recite what happened on ANY day of their life (some have a limit back to age 11 or so) if you just give them a date. Marilou Henner (Taxi show) is one of these people. They have immediate access to their SCM file cabinet to recall events from morning to night of any day chosen at random.They did tests with these people..well…you can watch it at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-5048…. It opens the door to further awareness of how the SCM organizes data and functions in memory. Plus, other studies of SCM. This is fascinating.

Neto Sosa, I have a heavy interest in personality disorders and have done a lot of layman reading

I’ve read all the answers and I’m really happy that I did. I don’t have eidetic memory, but my memory, like a few posters is above average. I have very vivid memories that date back to before I could talk. I believe my oldest one is getting vaccinated. I always believed this must have been six months but now that I’m a parent, I know it could have possibly been 3, 6, or 9 months. I remember my father walking me into a clinic. I remember sitting in his lap in a white room, I remember the white tile speckled with gold, the layout of the chairs, and on on my left there was a doorway. I remember parents taking in their children and coming out sometime later. I very specifically remember at one point, a child completely freaking out beyond that doorway(it must have been a hallway) and a staff member walking out and smiling at the parents before shutting the door. At the time I was just observing but when I was older, I realized she was jokingly smiling at the parents before shutting the door because the screaming kid was bound to make the other kids uneasy. I recall her face so vividly. It’s a surreal memory because her communication to me was delayed by several years. Like she was “speaking” in a code that I would know how to decipher later. It was just body language. I don’t remember the walk into the room where I was vaccinated but I know the next memory was the same day, because I was the same size, and my father was wearing the same blue checkered shirt. My clothes were removed and I remember my father holding me down. The nurse and my father said a few words I don’t remember but then the lady pricked me. THE FREAKING LADY PRICKED ME!!!! OMG I remember feeling like WTF and I stared at this lady confused, with burrowed eyebrows and raging eyes. I remember the feeling, the glare, and the grunt. I can still make it even today. I did not cry. She immediately smiled the biggest smile and said “oohh, what a brave little boy.” I did not know what she was saying at the time. I grew up speaking spanish, but sometime in first or second grade I recalled the memory(I had recalled it a number of times up until then), and there was a moment where I finally realized what she had said. She had called me a brave little boy. Again, the sounds, the syllables, the cadence of her voice, was a code that I wouldn’t break for many years.  She was honestly happy when I didn’t cry and my mistrust faded a little. I know I received more shots but I don’t remember if I cried or not. It was the clinic, the initial first shot, and her voice and words that were so vivid. I recalled this memory often when i was young, but now it’s just a memory of a memory.I also remember dreams I had from this period. Possibly around 1-2. I remember my parents were naked in a car driving and my mother had this donut shaped ring around her waist, like a giant fruit loop. The loop belonged to my father, and my mother’s wearing of it implied some kind of ownership by my father. My mother was happy and smiling to be wearing it. I remember in the dream my parents took my fathers orange car to a car wash but they did’t wash the car(my father never had an orange convertible but he did in this dream). I know that the car belonged to my father and not my parents. It was one of those do it yourself car washes. They got out happy and then they were under the carwash in suds…laughing. Despite the laughing the dream implied ownership and dominance, and submission on my mothers part, and spoke of male and female sexuality. I know I was still in diapers when I had this dream and I couldn’t talk. There was no talking in the dream, just feelings.

I remember walking in on my parents having sex around this time too. My father had yelled at me to get out. “get out. Get out!” he had been very angry. I was clearly upset at his yelling and my mother seeing my face quickly rebuttaled
him saying “oh leave him be, he’s just a baby” (in spanish). Also  a code I would understand later. I remember when I was eight telling my mother and my aunt that I knew what sex was because I had seen my parents have it. They both laughed at me and said I was ridiculous. My mother had probably forgot that one incident(there might have been others). But then I told them about the memory and described what I had seen. My mother was flabbergasted and embarrased.

“I would have never let you in my room while I was with your father!”

“No, mom. It’s because I was still very little. My dad tried to kick me out but you even said “Oh leave him be. He’s just a baby.”

Another memory I have from that time period was the first time I got spanked, sometime between the age of 2 and 3. I had woken up early at my aunts house and my cousins had just finished a bowl of cereal. She sat me down in a chair and poured me a bowl and also poured second bowls for my cousins. I ate my cereal and then requested seconds. My aunt poured me a little more cereal but then ALSO POURED THIRDS FOR MY COUSINS!! I was immediately upset. NO, NOT THEM> THEY ALREADY HAD TWO BOWLS! I pointed upset at their bowls saying NO. NO. and whining. Eventually my parents had also come to the kitchen table. My father must have done some scolding because I remember eating my bowl and seeing my cousins eat their third bowl. After finishing I requested my fairly due third bowl. This time I must have been a little demanding. The adults had a discussion about what to do and at some point my father requested my aunt serve me, but then also serve my cousins. None of the adults understood that I was upset because the count was off, they just saw a bratty selfish toddler wanting to be the only one with cereal at the table. When I realized my aunt was also pouring cereal for my cousins I threw a fit. NO, NO. I was no longer backing down. I pushed my cereal away and started pointing and whining and saying NO. My father pushed the cereal bowl back in front of me and demanded I eat. I back handed that bowl with all my might and it went flying off the table, milk, cheerios, and spoon all over my aunts floor and possibly all over my father. I can see that moment in slow motion. FUCK THAT. Keep your charity cereal this is about JUSTICE!!! The adults all gasped, my cousins stared at me open mouthed and wide eyed, after a slight pause my father pulled me from one arm out of the chair and apparently I got spanked. I don’t remember that part. But sometime when I was a teenager my mom, again with my aunts, were reminiscing while I was with them. They were laughing about something, and then my mom turned to me and said. “Do you remember that? that was the first time your father spanked you. Wanting cereal all to yourself god you were throwing a tantrum. Do you remember? You threw the cereal on the floor and your fathe;r wooo he spanked you!!! And he made your aunt pour you another and stood there making sure you ate that one.” By this time my mother was somewhat aware of my memory, which is why she thought it appropriate to ask me if I remember something from when I was two or three. I replied. “I wasn’t trying to be the only one with cereal. My aunt had already fed art and christy. They were one bowl ahead of me. I was just trying to get it to be fair.” Statements like these always made my mother feel very uncomfortable. What are you suppose to feel when you realize your teenage son remembers you having sex in detail; that the first time you let his father spank him he had been completely right to be upset?

I have many other memories from childhood. Often they are tied to pretty strong emotions; regret, triumph, loss, love, beauty. I also have the trait of not having to study for tests that involve memory. I don’t have to take notes. Hearing it once, or reading it once is enough. For a lot of exams, I would even wait till 20 minutes before a test and skim through a friends notes that they had been laboring and studying with for days. I would go into the exam and come out with a perfect score while my friend would get a B.

My memory usually deals with facts that I’m passionate about and want to remember or it is tied to strong emotions. I’m awful with names. I’m awful with little things like my keys or my phone or my wallet. I forget something important like that daily. I don’t know what I ate yesterday morning. I don’t know what I wore two days ago. I don’t remember casual conversations. This last one is a big one with girlfriends who often feel I’m ignoring them. “I told you that LAST WEEK!!”  The girlfriend thing is tough. My last girlfriend,( well every girlfriend I’ve had)…I remember the very first time I saw her…what she wore, where she sat, what she said to the skinny indian guy next to her, what he said. I remember the very first time I spoke with her, the way she looked, how she was so eager to show me the way to the exam room. I remember her excusing herself to use the restroom and coyly turning as she walked through the door to smile back at me. Those memories are vivid and clear and I have tons of them. During our relationship it was difficult to bring some of these happy memories up and realize she had no clue what i was talking about. It’s like the opposite of dating someone with Alzheimer’s. It’s not that they’re forgetting these beautiful moments, but your just remembering too many of them! or at least too many details. We broke up 3 months ago. Try getting over an ex with a memory like that. I can close my eyes and relive an amazing experience I had with her like it was just yesterday, except I haven’t talked to her in months. :/

Adisa Nicholson, lone ranger

I do not remember everything in my life, and I don’t have direct access to the things I remember. So if you asked me what Keyshia Cole looks like, I couldn’t give you answer, although I’ve seen her over 5 years ago on some R&B music video. I also can’t tell you the 6 halogens in the Periodic Table are, if you asked me what they were.So in that sense, my memory is just like yours.

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.

It can be an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on how it’s used.
I have a photographic memory, but I don’t always have film in the camera, to paraphrase Steven Wright.  Some days I don’t use the flash or forget to take the lens cap off.I can remember as a baby–less than a year old–being bathed in the kitchen sink after dinner. I recall the sounds (but not the meaning) of the conversation, the details of the room and how I comprehended certain features that seemed to make no sense as a child of that age but would be completely sensible to someone older.

For example, the kitchen sink had two large windows (large from the perspective of a very small child) in front of them.  The windows were like two glossy black monoliths. My baths would take place in the early evening, when the sun had gone down, but the blinds had not yet been drawn–this was mid-winter. So it was pitch black outside and the windows reflected back to me only the light and contents of the room–including the movement of people. I thought that there were two versions of my family members: those that I could see in the kitchen itself and those who appeared in the monoliths’ reflections–I didn’t understand the idea of a reflection, but I can still see them as clearly as the screen on which I’m typing.

My family members don’t believe that I can remember these details, given my age at the time, even when I describe in detail the event that they remember as children and teenagers.  It’s a completely accurate retelling of events that happened frequently during the first winter of my life, but for them there’s no way I could have known about them then or remember them now.

The fact that you can provide an accurate first-hand account of an event that you witnessed and have others disbelieve you is one of the challenges you face everyday in different ways–some times trivially and sometimes tragically.

When you remember something that others don’t remember the same way or that suggests that their sense of the world is being challenged or is at risk of being rewritten, typically you don’t find a sympathetic listener.
At an important level, by challenging what others remember you’re challenging their identity, the way they understand the world, and the ways they seek, construct and find meaning.

When you remember every single moment like other people remember what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, or the Challenger exploded, or towers were attacked, you can unsettle people, to say the least. You become acutely aware of the depth and breadth of cognitive dissonance that people employ (and not necessarily on purpose either).  If you should accidentally or on purpose reflect back to people that they exhibit forms of cognitive dissonance, they get frustrated and angry. You become the trouble maker, a source of disruption, arrogant, and argumentative. On the one hand, its a really interesting area to understand about your family, friends, and co-workers–where the deeper you go to explore this the more you can learn about a person.  At the same time, it’s incredibly dangerous and potentially deadly when it comes to building strong, lasting relationships.

One positive exception–there was a girl I used to see in a class I took that I never talked to during the entire term. She was attractive and smart and funny, and yet I never talked to her even though I wanted to because I was introverted and shy. When she walked out of the final exam, I thought that would be the last time I ever saw her. But it wasn’t. A few years later I ran into her, quite by chance. I asked her if she was in a certain class with a certain professor and of course she remembered that, yes, in fact she was.  For whatever reason, with the distance between the two events I was able to tell her what I had thought of her younger self and that I had so wished I had had the courage/ sense to tell her back then. Not surprisingly, she was very taken by my recollection and the genuine emotion that I shared. She was always thirty seconds late, always flustered coming in, always had a large coffee from Incredible Edibles, always had a paisley scarf that was in the process of coming off, and always sat in the back, towards the aisle in a crowded room. You can dwell in detail and emotional states from the past with the full intensity of that moment, while at the same time having something of the self-reflective distancing that time passing provides.

It’s a form of emotional time travel: everything you felt and thought comes back to you but you’ve got everything you’ve felt and learned since then to help better deal with or process a past that you may have wanted to change or redress. Most of the time, there’s no opportunity to change that past.  This time there was.  In 24 hours we were dating.

You also realize how much people repeat themselves, how they tell the same stories and anecdotes again and again, regardless of whether or not you’ve heard them before. Initially I thought that some older people I knew were simply forgetful, but I find it’s the case with people of all ages, just more common as you get older and there are more narratives that tend to get calcified in their recounting. I used to be bothered by this and have even told the teller that they’d already shared the tale.  I don’t do this anymore, realizing that people aren’t telling you a story singularly for your benefit, but for their benefit as well–or even most importantly.  The story of “the time I got that scar” shows that the teller had a life of adventure, that they’re funny and perhaps wistful, and that they’re fated to be who they are. My letting them know that this is the seventh time they’ve told me that story in the history of our relationship (and, worse, the context of the earlier six tellings) doesn’t help them.  You can’t even easily talk about the fact that people repeat themselves a lot without family and friends getting defensive about what they share with you.  People over 35 typically have about 10-12 stories, 5-6 theories, and 3-4 things that they really hate/ love that they keep coming back to, circling around regarding their own lives.
Depending on their age and experience, they may extend their set of stories about themselves to stories of their parents, their co-workers, their partner, their kids.  But even those stories are almost always about them processing their own 10-12 stories.

On a trivial level–literally speaking–when the board game Trivial Pursuit came out my friends and family loved playing the game, at least for their first turn. And then, at some point, I got my turn. I  answered question after question to the point that in some games my first turn would be the last turn of the game. In no time, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play the game.  I was the jerk, the cheater, or the fanatic who must have spent days memorizing the answers just to show off. I was the person who wrecked the game for everyone else.
There’s a bar room version of the game, the TNT network. Some jerk winning every game in a bar is not a happy outcome for the other folks in the bar.

Part of my studies included a course on Milton and his epic poem, Paradise Lost. The poem is over 10,000 lines long. One test in the course was simply to identify lines from the poem–including the speaker, the Book, line, and dramatic context. Milton was a blind poet who had memorized his primary texts: The Bible,and the Classics, etc. before going blind and in part, the test was a lesson in humility: Milton was great. We were not Milton and never would be.  No one was expected to get every answer right. The test was 80 minutes long. I finished in 20 minutes. It was like asking someone to list the numbers from 1-50 and then the letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order.

One strange wrinkle is that I can remember details in dreams very clearly as well.  Once I dreamed I was on stage with The Cult playing their song, She Sells Sanctuary.  I’m not a big fan of the band and while I had heard the song on the radio and in clubs, I had never tried playing it. But there I was–in a dream–playing it with the band. The next morning I got up, went to work and arrived home nine hours later.  That evening, as I was heading out the door with a friend, I mentioned my dream and picked up my guitar to see if what I played in the dream was anything like the song (having remembered the fingering and fretting).  To our surprise, I was playing the song from memory, note for note, but without every having attempted to play the song before.
In another dream just days before a PhD exam (Renaissance Drama) I dreamed that I was taking the exam and the exam demanded that I perform the role of Hamlet. So I did. From memory.  I told a friend about the dream and his response was . . . but you didn’t actually play the role, you just dreamed that you did.  I responded by performing Hamlet’s opening scene.

Liza Saha, inquisitively curious…

I don’t have an eidetic memory. What I have is a ‘better than average’ memory, which I had promptly overlooked until many of my friends and relatives pointed it out to me! Let me explain how my memory map works. I can recount early childhood memories as far as when I was one and a half years old and my aunt had bought me some expensive chocolates, which I absolutely hated. I can also recall the events of the first day of my pre-school as fresh as yesterday, including what i was wearing down to the last detail. I can also remember a lot of other ordinary stuff that happened in school. This is not a very exciting thing as most of my friends forget what happened that long ago, and give me blank stares when i ask them if they remember such and such event from the 2nd standard etc. and this frustrates me to no end.I have always been a voracious reader, especially fiction and whenever i read a book or watch a movie or anything else on tv, i can remember the names of all the characters and their story arc. However, recently I do struggle once or twice to remember a name and i really feel like tearing my hair over this.

One of the few cool things that I CAN do is that whenever I lose something, I can play out the events leading to it (like, where it was last kept before losing it, why it was taken from that place etc) in my mind and 98% of the time, I usually find it. I can also remember tastes and smells, in a large range and I usually associate them with a lot of memories.

During my early school days, I could remember the entire text from a chapter along with the diagrams and charts and stuff and had no problem replicating it with a few or no alterations just by reading it once or twice. But now I can only remember the gist of  a certain text along with the diagrams, but I can tell, on which part of the book you can find the answer (yeah, not much helpful this way :P)

Also, I can always,always remember a face long time after I have seen it but a few times, I have trouble associating a name with the face and that few times drives me mad!

The fact is, having a ‘better than average’  memory has its perks but the need to connect certain things (such as a place with a memory, a name with a face, an event  etc) can be really overwhelming and it sometimes (all the times) drives me to obsession. I keep thinking about the unconnected things even in my dreams and during important events, like exams, even if I dont want to!! Also, it’s very painful to visit old places (like our first home, my first classroom etc) and finding out that they are no longer similar to what they are in my vivid memory and  it really bugs me several days on end. There are also a LOT of useless information lying around my head which I wish I could erase somehow. All in all, having this kind of memory is in no way, considered by me to be ‘ a gift’. I would rather have a normal memory, that allows me to carry out all my duties  without driving me to unnecessary brooding and obsession every other day



cons:1.  People constantly tell me that normal people can’t remember things like that.  This makes it hard for me to gauge how much background explanation to provide and I have to learn through trial and error.
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.

I don’t technically have photographic memory, but everything I listen to, I can always recall nearly all the details. Until very recently I thought it was very normal. My teacher pointed out that I remembered a lot more historical events and scientific theories than everyone in the class added together. Even though in daily life it might make you look very smart, there are many disadvantages.Positive side:

In school, just because I can give many examples to support my arguments in essays and in exams. in one debate speech I used more than 20 examples to justify my stance. In science subjects, I can memorise and recall every formula I have learnt since 1st grade. I don’t really need to study for maths or sciences. When my classmates have a problem, they come to me for the answer and that makes you look really smart. I also remember every phone number I ever dialled.

From another person’s point of view it looks really good, but there are several problems:

1. Every time I see something disgusting or horrifying, I remember it forever. Since the age of 6, I have been collected these scary moments. Sometimes on the street I recall one of them and it sends chills down my spine. I still remember being scared in a circus when I was 8. Only until very recently have I manage to overcome the fear.

2. I have very serious ear worms. I listen to half a song in the car and the song is stuck inside my head, until I replace it with another song. The problem is, because I only know half the song, my head constantly replays the last line of the music before I got off the car. It disturbs me allot.

3. Visual memories pop up at the wrong time. During my exams I suddenly recall a full scene from movies. I remember the entire scene, the way it was edited, the dialogue. Only last Monday when I was in my history exam my brain replayed the entire Siege of Gondor from Lord of the Rings, which lasted around 30 minutes. I could not concentrate and ended up writing much less than I usually do.

4. I can never go to bed. Once my head hits the pillow I start replay recent events. Since I am very fond of audiobooks, I replay them in my head when I try to sleep. I go to bed at eleven, but in the past two weeks I have been constantly reciting the process of German Unification and Bismarck’s diplomatic victories. That is not particularly helpful when there is a maths exam the next day.

So I hope you don’t get too excited about photographic memory. It does make you look cool when you manage to recite a phone number or a random scientific theory; but when you are alone the bad memory starts to freak you out. By the way, sometimes I look at the picture and a skimmed over it briefly and I didn’t study the entire thing, the fragmented pictures consumes a lot of my energy to fill in the missing bits.


It means that the way you remember things are visual.
When it comes to learning a new language, I prefer to learn reading and writing first, because then when I learn new words, new phrases, in my mind I ‘spell’ it. (Ex: Instead of seeing an apple, when learning a new word for an apple, I instead in my mind see how it’s spelled A-P-P-L-E)It means that if I want to consciously remember dates and facts, I easily can. It’s stored somewhere in my brain, and when years later, a date, or a fact is presented again, if it was extremely vague, I feel like I know it, and if it’s something I thought was unique/interesting, then I recall it.

I remember everyone‘s faces I come into contact with. EVERYONE. If you tell me your name, most likely I’ll remember it too. In Vegas, I ran into an old classmate I haven’t seen for six years, I instantly recognized him, as a small example. It also means I get easily annoyed because I remember everyone’s faces, and I get irritated when I can’t remember everyone’s names.

Believe it or not, although I’m the queen of typos on the Internet, it means I’m a good speller and very nitpicky about spelling(in real life). It led me to the fact that before I knew perfect English, I already did  well in spelling bee, because spelling to me, in terms of  words, feels “right”.

If  I paid attention to something, I will remember these specific details. My friends say I remember the most random non obvious details–but that’s only if I made some kind of a note of it. I can remember years later.

I wasn’t too good in math, but not surprisingly, I did well in geometry and enjoyed geometry.

History and poli sci classes were not too difficult in terms of dates, facts, and remembering what happened, I absolutely loved it and grasped that quickly  ^ ^

I’m not super human or posses super special abilities, but I do have to some degree a photographic memory.


Margaret Weiss, will try anything once

i believe i have photographic memory: not sure how the average is defined.. but mine serves me rather well :)studying – school and college – was a breeze; like Mike Sellers mentioned, all that’s needed is reading the material and then “calling it back” when needed..

it is the original Google Glass!.. lol..

some examples: during exams, all i had to do was to reproduce the answers/pages of the book from memory.. VERY handy if you ask me..

but i would say that’s even more useful now, in my adult life:
– at work: reading contract and legal briefs, making notes on legislative changes, etc..
– at home: it is invaluable.. as any other parent/spouse would confirm, many times the house appears to turn into the Bermuda triangle and things go missing.. so all that’s needed is just retrace steps and recall mental pictures of the environment, and voila! – i think i am the walking-and-talking “Lost and Found” department.. haha



I didn’t mind it at school or work. I took a very analytic path so I couldn’t rely on my memory too much (I do quant/problem solving all day). However, it gets awkward when I meet people I have met before. I can recall all details about them. For instance, if I met you in nursery school, I’ll recall your house, your parents occupations and random other tidbits. It can make people uncomfortable.


Shantnu Mathuria, An amateur amateur

I have a photographic memory and there are lots of advantages of it –

  • I remember books in the form of pictures and hence it’s pretty easy for me to retrieve the important parts which I prefer to keep in my mind. I can remember the location of a line in a page of a book (basically which side of the page does it lie) apart from its color, size and vertical position in the page.
  • Sometimes it gets weird for others to understand. Ex – while searching for a place I would start giving directions just because I had seen that electric pole or a particular house, or a hoarding the last time we came here on that route. These easily passable things get fed into my mind even though I never try to absorb them.
  • I never forget faces, I’ll tell you a funny instance about it. When I got hooked to FB, I started looking for all my long lost friends, one of whom I had last met 12 years ago. Luckily she was there on FB, I sent her a message furnishing details about us like  our school’s name, class and teacher’s name. She first refused to acknowledge these details as a proof that I was her genuine classmate. After that I had to tell her the color of hairband, the types of shoes she used to wear and our common friend. She was a bit puzzled knowing all these fine details but she accepted my request. We still talk to each other and she still does not know who I am.
  • Similarly, I caught hold of one my friends who had lost contact with me many years ago. We were travelling in a bus and I could not shake away the feeling of seeing that face before and bam it struck me! Unlike the case above, he got easily convinced.
  • This also helps in improving my sports abilities. ex – I would keep playing a particular shot, swing in my memory until I feel that it has become perfect and it could be executed as it is. It is quite exhausting but benefits are worth reaping.
  • Things are also painful for me. I have to run a cycle of pictures on my bed before I go sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night, the same process has to be repeated. Unlike Christian McConnell, I dream every night and can retain very specific dreams for a very long time. I often wake up quite exhausted in the morning since I feel that dreaming too involves mind  engagement.


Paul Ferris, web developer, graphic designer and games developer. Too young for industry employment 😦

Interesting. It feels like a bit of a superpower sometimes, and other times you don’t really notice. These are the things I can do atm:- Instantly memorise spellings (When someone says a word I instantly “see” it in my mind [as white on a black background], and I can go backwards and check the spelling, as well as change how that “copy” of the word is spelt for use in usernames, etc)

– Go backwards through memories as if I’m reading a book (I need to stare straight ahead and sort of “fade out” of conscious reality for this to work, but it let’s me “tab” through each memory until I find what I want. I’d call it a memory palace, but it isn’t quite detailed enough for that)

– Rewind memories (Same as above, but in video form. I simply focus on a specific point in time and play around with it. Around about last year I managed to go through the very recent past [~1-5 minutes ago], and I can now do that somewhat reliably. Clips of memory can be viewed in third person, but they normally take the form of ~1080p unless I’m in a very, very peaceful environment)

– Navigate regularly-visited environments as if I’m viewing them through a camera w/ perfect (aka human-eye level) display (This needs to be somewhere I visit more than once or twice a week, but I can see literally anything I’ve looked at i that area. I proved having an eidetic/photographic memory to a friend by reciting features of a school art room from memory)

– See myself in third person (requires TOTAL AND ABSOLUTE CALM or extreme boredom. Otherwise, I just hit a lot of mental fog and don’t really get anywhere. Doing it intentionally in realtime is f*cking terrifying, so I generally avoid that)

– SUPER OMG EXTREME lucid dreams, including one where I was a fish. Every single human sense except sight experienced the dream (this happened when I was in the bath, and it’s actually the only one of these I’ve ever had. I’m sure I could trigger one again though, if I took the right steps.)

– Lucid dreaming (Been possible for a long time, possibly since I was born)


– Repeated night terrors in the form of visual hallucinations + paranoia. They might contain sound, smell and hearing one day, but they haven’t yet.

– Almost useless memory for names and a possibly poorer than average one for words.

– I’ll sometimes spend entire days “out”, unable to really participate in any maths despite being very strong creatively. This is going away now and becomes less common alongside stress + lack of sleep, so it might just be normal tiredness.

Unrelated to topic (aka random bragging because why not):

– Manipulating pain/perceived temperature

– Deep (aka non-thinking) meditation (only experienced so far during cold baths in Winter [I live in Melbourne, don’t worry], so this could have been temporary hypothermia).


I think the benefits outweigh the downside for my semi-eidetic memory.  Remembering information learned from books and lectures allows greater associational exploration between disciplines.  As an alpine ski racer from age 5 through twenties, all winter long I’d be having to memorize slalom courses.  We would climb the course in reverse and memorize by sequence.  With good memory, I could “run” the course many times mentally and clock my finish time to within a second. “Knowing” the course is critical when you then ski it in real time at high speed.  This helped me become VT junior champion as a teen.
As described by others here, I can remember where a topic is covered and the figures for math and physics textbooks from 30 years ago.  I traveled to Europe with my mother and brother at age 11, and I can remember everything we saw, from the Munich science museum to the catacombs under Rome.
Growing up in the woods, I learned to remember orientational changes, grade changes, etc.  I never get lost and can remember long sequences of changes in compass direction.  I prefer a quick glance at target location with Google maps versus GPS, because the whole map sticks in my head.
One benefit is rarely losing anything.  My office is total clutter, but I know where everything was last thrown, underneath which pile.  I know where I last saw something, or last used something.  I often find things by running the day in reverse to determine the possible places an item could have been deposited.  Calculatus eliminatus!
Some downside: Problems in relationships owing to my partners not remembering life correctly.  They change reality and it drives me buggy.  My wife forgets that she’s told me things before, but I remember all the details, so I have to hear things over and over.  I don’t like watching movies or TV shows a second time, because I remember everything that happened and it’s not as enjoyable.  Because so many shows are formulaic, my associative skills give me a very strong ability to predict a plot twist.  It’s fun, but movies are then less surprising.
The ADHD thing others mentioned is a problem for me, too.  The thirst for NEW information is voracious, as is my ability to relate new information to the many subjects I’ve studied.  So I’m eminently distractable and very easily bored by tasks that don’t involve exploratory learning.
For all those similarly afflicted, and others interested, I’ve found a community of “different minds” at the Polymathic Institute and Polymathica group on Facebook (go to “…com/groups/Polymathica/). There are over 2000 people conversing there.  Brain research and memory are often popular topics.


I don’t have eidetic memory but I do have a very good memory that I started to train as soon as I realized that I had a kind of “rare” skill.I can recall a huge amount of information without even trying to.

For example, I don’t have the best orientation and I can guarantee that I’m not the guy to guide you through an unknown location. However, having a good memory helps a lot by recalling the exact path and locations to actually draw a map in my mind without any effort, and being a motorcycle rider I can say that on the streets I rely a lot on my memory.
This skill also helps me a lot in my work as well. Being a software developer it’s really a huge time saver to recall the little things everyone has forgotten.

One of the disadvantages I often see is that for example everyone in the classroom or in a work meeting has their little notebooks to type information or write down ToDo’s and stuff like that. Of course, you, having a good memory, are just sitting there without writing down anything and this may cause bad impressions of people who doesn’t know about you and your memory. The first impression is that you might be uninterested in your education or your work.

Some boss I had once tested my memory because of this. He didn’t buy the idea of me remembering the details of the meeting, so we record the next meeting and we did some tests. I repeated the entire dialog while he was hearing the recording with one headphone. He didn’t bother me again.
But still, for me was a problem, so I bought a little notebook to “write down important things” (that I’d never read again, I didn’t want to spoil my memory :))

Another important disadvantage is the amount of information since anything could fire a lot of different visualizations, sounds, images, etc. It’s a problem that you might not notice while you’re a kid but it tends to annoy you when you have a lot of worries in your mind. Meditation helps with this issue, sometimes it feels like a “reset” of your brain.

Everyone would want to forget the bad things you lived through, however this it’s impossible for people who has a good memory, and it can really annoy you. When you have bad experiences, you would probably remember them, and it can be sad and annoying. But, when you can remember them in detail, then things feels wrong.
The opposite it’s also true, you can recall great experiences in detail, even when people already forgot them, and despite this being a good thing, sometimes it feels a little sad…

And last but not least, one of the major disadvantage is that when people know about your skill, they think you can remember anything at will and it really doesn’t work that way. You just have the skill there, like a receptor storing memories and a good index to get them back, but you can’t just say “I want to recall the entire cities in the world right now”, at least not with my brain.

For that I started to use some memory techniques like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Met…  that can really improve your memory even you have a really bad one. With these techniques I learned to control it a little bit, by knowing how my memory works. Despite that there’s a lot of things science doesn’t know about the brain and the memory process, you tend to do the recall process consciously when you have to, and it feels fantastic.

I would have to change many things in my life if one day I loose my memory. Of course, eventually I will, but let’s hope that I’ll be old enough to care!


It sucks… it really does.I spend more time trying to forget things that I have seen or heard than I care to admit. Having worked in computer support, meant me having to remind people to never tell me their passwords.. sadly some people refuse to listen.

I have become a book of secrets with the only advantage of being able to provide facts if needed.

There are many many memories that I would love to have erased from my brain.. yeah.. it sucks a lot.


Wen Shi Di, Perpetual Explorer

Memory comes in many shades, a bit like sexuality.  I think that there are many different levels and variations depending upon upbringing, environment etc.
I myself am very lucky to possess a very good spatial memory that is almost photographic.  I can recall locations that I have been through and do walkthroughs in my mind and hardly ever get lost, even in big complicated cities.  I understand that Australian Aboriginals have similarly advanced skills although they are seen as backward in other respects.
I tend to think that my own skill comes mainly from practice.  As a travel writer, I am exploring all the time and very rarely stay in one place for long.  I would not be surprised if my skills disappeared if I were to lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Overall, I hope someone puts together a wiki on these answers as it is raising some very important points about the multi faceted nature of intelligences.


Bradley Mattice, Armchair commenter.

It has it’s definite pros and cons, many of which have been mentioned here.Some cons for me:
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.

I manage.

Wouldn’t trade the memory ability, though. Very glad to have it.


I don’t have much of a superb memory but one thing i noticed about myself was that i associated every memory with a scent or smell, I still remember the scent of the biscuit i used to eat when i was around 5 years old, i remember the scent of the road back at my home town, i remember the scent of my room when i first moved in with my uncle, and all these scents trigger memories. some good, some bad.


My memory isn’t eidetic to the degree some have described here, but is sufficiently retentive and flexible to allow me to recall events from age three or four with full visual, auditory, and sometimes olfactory components. For instance, my earliest memory is of being disappointed that my afternoon cartoons weren’t on TV at their usual time, and of my mother explaining it was because President Kennedy had been shot (while describing this I’m visualizing the room, furniture, images on TV, and so forth in full technicolor detail). I was just under three years old at the time.I recall teaching myself how to read, at age four, by associating the letters of a word my brother had spelled out to me the week before (“comet”) with a similar word in a different book (both were on space travel). From that point onward I could read at a very high level, and was consuming books on history and economics, as well as Mark Twain and other authors, in first grade. I can’t see the pages visually, but remember concepts from most of them and often the cover or “feel” of the book.

In school, I barely had to study since I took highly structured notes and, while reviewing them for a test, could envision and recall everything the instructor said during that discussion. I’ve also studied a wide range of topics, from history to computer science, and have a strong ability to recall and synthesize information from all these disciplines. The only learning issue I’ve ever had involved higher math (surprisingly) because my talent seems more focused on the written and spoken word than on numbers. That said, I can recall phone and other numbers along with the people and addresses with which they’re associated. Many of these date from high school or earlier and are just as fresh in my memory as the day I learned them.

I also can recall details of maps and locations, which is very handy when traveling. If I look at a map of a major city for maybe half an hour, I then no longer need it and can visualize the structure with a high degree of accuracy.

Likewise, I can recall details of mechanical devices I’ve worked on. If I disassemble something (I restore old radios as a hobby) my brain automatically maps the steps, so I don’t need a diagram in order to re-assemble it correctly even if dis-assembly happened months or years earlier.

One good thing is that, unlike some who simply cannot sort through memory by relevance, my own storage is prioritized and context driven. I’m not constantly re-living memories unless they’re relevant to a given situation, and can then recall what’s needed. The bad part of it is that, if reminded of anything “bad” I’ve ever done (from early childhood onward) I immediately re-experience the event and the attached negative emotion as if it’s in real time.

From a personal perspective, people find this ability both fascinating and somewhat intimidating or uncanny. People who know me well are used to my recall abilities, but new acquaintances often find them creepy or off-putting. When my mother passed away, family members were sorting through her things when one found a small shell ornament she owned. This person mused “where did she ever get this?” because my mother never traveled. I reminded her that SHE had bought the ornament as a gift for my mother, adding the year and in what context. She looked at me like I’d just sprouted a second head.

My ability to recall nearly accurate quotes is very handy in debate, but I have to consciously control its use in social contexts so as not to offend people.



Memory is multi-faceted. In addition to the typical photographic memory I also have a perfect memory for color. I can look at a color and match it exactly months or years later. I sing with perfect pitch because I remember musical sounds exactly. I can replay entire symphonies in my head, or replay scenes from my favorite movies, so I rarely get bored. In my earlier life I soaked up everything indiscriminately. As I got older I learned to turn it off and on. Unfortunately, I can’t remember faces and sometimes embarrass myself by introducing myself to people I already know well. I once had a rather lengthy conversation with a woman I believed was my grandmother, but who was actually my next-door neighbor. (I had known the neighbor for years and my grandmother all my life.) Yes, I also have Aspergers.
So you take the good with the bad…

Reading your apparent honest answer to the question makes me feel a tiny bit better.  The reason is that I am just the opposite—I have a terrible memory. I have always found it easy to understand things and then a few days later cannot remember how to say, do, or perform them.  My work has always been aviation related.  Joined the airforce when 18 years old during world war two and then an airline after it was over.  I always did my job fairly well but really had to work at it. For example, I had one job instructing pilots how all the aircraft’s systems worked but usually had to study the night before in order to explain them. When I was navigating or pilot, where repetitive procedures were required, I could perform quite well and happy while doing so.
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.

I can remember books I read as a young child, word perfect.  Along with characters and colour backgrounds.  This of course lead to longer and longer stories – The Lord of the Rings at age 12.  Becoming a bit of a teachers pet simply by retaining and regurgitating what was in the book.  The same thing with movies – dialogue, scenes, costumes.  Friends have commented that this isn’t normal behaviour.These skills completely fail me when it comes to social queues and meeting people.  I can remember the text of a conversation but not the tone.  I have difficulty remembering the faces of people I have met, often more than once, especially if there has been some time between meetings.  Some people get locked in, and others don’t.  Walking into a party and introducing myself to someone who says ‘I remember you’ is a frequent occurence

For roughly the last five years I’ve been on medication for depression, and have definately noticed an effect on my memory.  Many things that would previously have been laser-etched in my memory are now vague and fuzzy.  I think its mainly effecting newer memories than old.  I’m still unable to reread a book without mouthing words or mentally preparing for the updoming scene tho.

I will say that being on the meds is better than being off them, as a subjective judement call.  Even if they are changing me, me on them is better than me off them.


I don’t have an eidietic memory per se, not as strong as some people who have commented but I have what I call as “halfway there”. I don’t recall every single number plate as Christian does but I am very good at reliving past events, being able to play what I have seen previously through my head like inserting a DVD. It just flows. I have no problems with it and find it thoroughly advantageous in many aspects of my life (work, hobbies, uni etc).
The only downside of it is that I am often quite surprised to see how most people I know don’t have this ability to recall loads of information at the drop of a hat and remember dates and times and whatever occurrences etc and I express that and then I come across as a bit egotistical- but that’s something I can work on.


Jon Rodriguez, EpiphanyEyewear.com

I tend to vividly remember the spatial layout of the room or scene where most of the scenes in my memory took place. I have lots and lots of memories stretching back to my childhood where I don’t remember what was said, and I don’t really remember visual colors or textures, but I do remember where everyone was and what actions everyone was doing. I can also often replay the walk/drive that took me from one of these memories to another.For remembering the “photographic” details of scenes in my life (details beyond just the spatial layout), I’ve started wearing Epiphany Eyewear smart glasses that record my experiences from my perspective! For example, here is my memory of an intense fast/upside-down theme park ride from the LA County Fair:


Andrew Rump, Software Engineer

I recognize people if they have made an impression on me some time in my life – any kind of impression like when I walked down a road in Copenhagen and recognized a young woman who was walking towards me. I greated her before I realized that I actually didn’t know her and when she stopped – waiting for an apologi for my lame attempt to talk to her I realized that I had seen her the day before on another street in the city with a beautiful scarf. When I described the scarf to her I was immediately pardoned! 🙂
I have also several times in my life recognized people I haven’t seen for 15-30 years. I don’t always remember where I have seen them before but I know right away that I know them and we just have to figure out by going back in time until we find were our paths have crossed in the past.


Horia Tudosie, Nexialist when not programming

I can recognize a movie I’ve seen before (long before) seeing just 2-5 seconds (assuming I have seen those 2-5 seconds of it the first time and most of the movie itself.) I may not remember its title, but I surely remember the subject and the outcome!
It does not affect my life in any way… I still like to re-watch a good movie many times, I hate when scenes are missing from more recent versions.



When I was 5 I had seen a couple in my neighbourhood have sex. I remember it vividly. Even the color of their clothes lying on the blue carpet.
When I was 7, I joined school. Being home schooled until then it was weird when they asked me learn a poem in 30 minutes. My mom used to let me glance at it once. I kept yawning for 30 minutes.
When I was 13, I went to watch my first movie in theater. The guy seated across me had a feather tattoo on his shoulder and a dragon fly earring on. I found him more intriguing than the movie.
When I was fifteen my first crush wrote me a letter. I don’t have it anymore but I remember all the words. He tucked it in my bag while blushing profusely. His t shirt matched his eye color that day. He walked away hanging the blue fast track bag on his back.
When I was 18 , The lecturer refused to give me extra marks on the chemistry theory paper. I had written exact words as given in the notes. He pointed his index finger, which had a plain gold ring on, onto my answer and asked me explain the equation. I couldn’t. Always hated chemistry. He took out his blue Reynolds pen and entered 60 in the yellow covered register. Asshole.
When I was 20 I was out shopping like always. I stood in front of the reception at pantaloons and asked them why did they shift their computers near the manequins. They were amused that I noticed. A thin lady wearing blue eye shadow explained how they were blocking the voltas ac.
I’m 22 now. I’m a programmer. Everybody who works with me loves me because I remember the line number of the code they were supposed to correct, among a lot many other things.


Ayan Lim, Quorean

The answer to this question can be found in Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, ‘Funes the Memorious.’ I recommend this if you want to know what would be like to have a “perfect” memory.Edit: There is also an interesting article in Scientific American on Borges’s work and the “first properly documented case of extraordinary memory,” which “is that of Solomon Shereshevskii, studied by the celebrated Russian psychologist Alexander Luria starting in the 1920s”.


Wikipedia article on Funes the Memorious: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…

It is a boon and a bane. Sometimes, I feel like I am cursed with it. Sometimes I feel blessed.I have an unreal photographic memory. I can remember events from the time I was 2 years old. I’m 23 now; and have insane amount of memories in my head.

The happy memories are fun. I love thinking of my 4th birthday, watching black and white tv shows, singing and taking care of my baby sister when mom took a quick shower, climbing trees with my cousin brothers, the wrinkles on my granma’s face when she smiles warmly, the french fries I shared with my uncle, my sister being born and me sleeping with my mom’s blanket while she was in the hospital, watching cartoons, eating cake and chips watching Captain Planet. I smile, as I fondly think of these and type out my answer. Having a photographic memory is so good, right? Not always.

The bad memories are the worst. I sometimes hate that I cannot forget some terrible events, even though I really want to. What’s worse is that, every time I think of it, it still brings back same amount of anger, hatred and pain. Not to mention tears. It’s strange. I’ve come to terms with it. Trying to forgive the people who caused you pain isn’t all that easy (especially when you can remember words, actions, thoughts through your head, your crying and sadness so very clearly, as if it just happened 5 minutes ago). But life is good. At least, I try to think of it that way.

Also, sometimes it’s sad when you remember important events and others.. well.. don’t. But it’s all cool. I love these people anyway. 🙂

I am thankful for my “gift”. Wouldn’t have it any other way.


I see patterns.  For example, I can look down at a huge patch of clover in the grass, and the four-leaders stick out to me.  It’s disconcerting.
Having a photographic memory can be a life saver. Being blessed with this talent has help me with everything from passing a class to getting home. I can go some where one time and remember everything vividly. However my memory isn’t the best, so if something was a while ago I won’t remember.


Elena van der Meer, art of life
If you know how to use it , your life change. It is up to you how much information you will take and process and how you use them in future. Sometimes you just have to switch it off and delete. It sound impossible but with every up and then upgrate you archive only the part of the memory you want to keep and the other one might be temporary forgoten. The tricky think about it is, your brain work 24/7 and we all design to sleep well to rest and get energy for the following day..with photographic memory you might get some trouble sleeping and that’s the negative point of it.


Michael Ioffe, Student
I remember almost every song I’ve listened to, and can recall tiny details such as the fact that the intro to “The Man” by Aloe Blacc is the same as part of the riff in Wonderwall by Oasis (“Yeah I can tell nobody feels the way I do” versus “And you can tell everybody, I’m the man”). I visually remember most books and scenes in movies, as well as the most random things. I remember events back to age three and some to age two, although some memories I can’t recall at all. I remember people who often don’t remember me, and remember events and make connects that nobody remembers or believes. Which can be kinda annoying sometime. That being said, I’m not necessarily photographic in my memory. It’s an interesting feeling 🙂

While we wait for 1st person perspective, I’ll share a story from an old classmate of mine.As a kid, he was given a book with random pictures and words and random associations between them.  He can still remember the contents of those pages and the associations.
However, he had some disability that allowed him to take extra time on tests and standardized tests.

His life didn’t seem that different but maybe he just hadn’t learned to take full advantage at the time.


Well I can tell you what its like to have a poor memory, and how that leads to being taken advantage of every single day. I can’t keep a mobile phone,I can and have lost the item within one day, the same thing with my wallet, and keys for my car. This means I no longer carry a phone, and carry only  a small amount of cash and no wallet on me. I lose my bank card at least 3 times in past year. The amount of planning it takes to overcome this. Multiple bank cards, cash stashed for emergency use, several duplicates of every key I use and I communicate only by e-mail so there are written records. Also finding places while driving is very hard, so anywhere new I always use google maps.Right now I was lend a work laptop, which I cannot find will have to replace out of my own pocket.
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.



What is it…how is it called the ability …….once you see a new face you recall another person you have meet in your life or seen in TV with similar features…..let’s say the same eyes, same laughter, identical lips or whatever they have in common. It comes to me like two photos in the same page of the book….computer desk. Friends and family say kept saying until I run into your discussion.

I too have an eidetic memory. I remember the normal and day to day events in my life very clearly. I can still picturize my childhood days. For me its a blessing.
I cant remember anything unless I am prompted, then it comes back into my knowledge. It is like I am a blank until I remember it. I have forgotten lots of my life because I have not been prompted to remeber it. I know this. I think this is how I hold so much. Disclaimer: Any online notes or journals are strictly for the peruse of my SO. They are not meant to be shared unless he deems them so. In addition, unnecessary knowledge which may lead to harm will be censored rather than recorded. Thank you.
The full discussion can be found at quora here.

5 thoughts on “What is it Like to Have a Photographic Memory?

  1. I would rather say my memory falls between a category of flashbulb and eidetic memory than a photographic memory for many reasons. However, all that is on my mind right now about having an extraordinary memory is that it sucks because I am still frequenting memories of the first girl I “fell in love with” my sophomore year of high school, and I didn’t even date her. My mind constantly reverts to moments where I am being rejected and struggling with this person, and I recall it to such extreme accuracy that the same feelings of sadness occur. I have been dating a different girl for almost a year and a half, and I can’t even feel the same way about her. This isn’t a “blessing”. It’s not always bad though, I do feel happy emotions of other memories when they spontaneously occur in my mind. And I find it relatively easier suppressing many, many different feelings of sadness/terror/etc of other times past. But still, I don’t know what it is, I know I will never forget about this person and my feelings for her. I can only wish to give my life significance in my passion of the sciences. Who needs “love” anyway? People have done that already.

    Sorry about this rant. Someday I’ll give people a better perspective, and better written perspective as well, on what it’s like having an extraordinary memory.


  2. I have a similar memory to above. I can recall anything that stands out in my mind as other than mundane. I cannot recall what the weather was on a certain date unless it stood out. But I can recall almost every conversation word for word, recall events, recall everything I have ever learned. Sometimes I forget small details over time but by using “memory mapping” remembering what I can remember, I can reassemble the missing parts and then everything comes back with clarity. I am certainly visual. I never ever forget a song with perfect accuracy and pitch. I can sit at a piano and play any song I have ever heard.. it takes me a while to work out chords as I am not a pianist.. but you get the idea. Names were a problem for me however I seem to have over come that. Learning Spanish as a second language is hard for me.. I seem to be missing something despite having a good retention of words usually remembering them after only one or two uses but sometimes words in spanish will just not stick no matter what I do. When anxious I seem to have greater difficulty in both laying down and recalling. If I plan on making something stick forever.. like a scene etc.. then it does. Literally forever with perfect clarity of every detail.

    For example I remember everything ever studied with a few holes.. like small names of muscles arteries and nerves. But generally I can see the pictures in my mind and then simply use what I do remember to look up what is missing. I remember everything that INTERESTS me without fail. Every documentary ever watched, every new tech. Sometimes my memory is not word for word but I retain a summary of what I learned in my head. Sometimes I can read off the page I hold in my mind but that usually requires some memory recall tricks to help. I can glance at something quickly like an attractive woman, then pull up the image in my mind immediately afterwards and study it in much more detail. I also have amazing pattern recognition but I think this is because my IQ is tested above the 99% percentile. I am looking to make this official by sitting a Mensa test this year. I rather like the idea of belonging to Mensa. I can finish the Mensa 60 question test now in about 7 minutes with a perfect score. at least on the practice tests.

    So memory is interesting. I have changed career more than 6 times. Remember most of the skills from every career and able to fill in the blanks with a bit of follow up and half an hour spare. I am a hypnotherapist and have been able to bring back memories of people they had forgotten including minute details. I can lay down memories under hypnosis both false, and real (Teach a person something under hypnosis) and know they will have 100% recall.

    It is both a gift and a curse. People tell me that would love to have my memory but they do not realize that every bad thing that ever happened to me is in perfect recall in my mind forever. Who wants that ? I like being intelligent but not when everyone else is not as such. This just frustrates me and even hinders my applying for work. I may have to end up returning to university and obtain further qualification as the seems the only way people recognize intelligence. I have so many interests because of my recall and understanding from all fields of physics (Solar, string, particle, quantum etc) to most areas of science. I was not this interested in the world as a child, and it seems the older I am, the better my memory becomes. Perhaps I have some neuro degenerative disorder and am just a savant.


  3. It is both a blessing and a curse. You don’t get to choose what to remember. You remember really amazing things in great detail but you also remember very unpleasant experiences in great detail as well. In a sense, because of this ability, you can re-live experiences all over again as if they are happening in a sort of vivid daydream. Another thing is, because someone with this ability has such a vast amount of information stored in their brain, they can often get lost in the “database” in a way.

    I sometimes wish I couldn’t remember things as well as I do because there are things I would very much like to forget.


    • I am frustrated because my photographic memory is eidetic, I remember things I see perfectly, and often forever. I agree with all of the above.. lost in the database, remembering the good AND the bad. But ironically I struggle to learn a second language. If its facts, science, even math, or I want to mind perv on this nice girl that just walked past – no problem. If its to replay a conversation – again no problem. But learning language.. I’m the slowest learner in the entire class. Go figure !


  4. I have a far below average photographic memory, at the point that people made me notice how bad I am at remembering things. I have hard time recognizing people (including relatives) in the streets, their faces don’t look familiar. I can’t remember what people dress. I can remember better places and inanimate things (mountains, cities and so on).

    I can remember some details of my early childhood, from when I was 2 and 3.
    I only have a good memory at remembering how to spell words, including extremely difficult words such as Thrihnukagigur.


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