Photographic Memory

Published on Sunday, July 24, 2011 in , , , , ,

60 Minutes' eidetic memory report The holy grail of memory is considered to be eidetic memory, what is more commonly as known as a photographic memory.

Currently, there's plenty of skepticism about it. That's largely because there's so little scientific study about it, coupled with the rarity of finding anyone who truly has it. Fortunately, that's all starting to change.

If you've spent more than 5 minutes reading Grey Matters, you realize that there are many clever ways to simulate a great memory, and even to use a trained memory to appear to be far better than the true credit it deserves.

We'll start with a 2010 National Geographic story about Gianni Golfera. He's being studied by researchers because of his extraordinary memory abilities. However, he has also learned, created, and taught memory systems that anyone can use, so there's a question of just how much of his memory is due to biology and how much is due to practice and determination.

More recently, it's been discovered that there is a specific type of enhanced memory, called “hyperthymestic syndrome”, or less technically, “superior autobiographical memory”, that may be at the heart of this unusual phenomena. I mentioned this briefly back in 2008 on my post about Jill Price.

In that same post, I also mentioned that Taxi star Marilu Henner is also hyperthymestic. Late last year, she appeared in a 60 Minutes report about superior autobiographical memory with some others with the same condition.

This is worth watching, because it's a more detailed account of the condition, the people who have it, and the state of the current research about this little-understood phenomenon:

Along with the main report, CBS also posted two short bonus footage segments. In the first, Lesley Stahl puts Louise Owen's memory to the test, and in the second, Marilu Henner compares the experience of having such a remarkable memory to time traveling.

As someone interested in memory, even though my own interest is largely in entertainment, I do believe this research could prove to be quite interesting. If you have any thoughts or experiences you'd like to share about this unique form of memory, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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