How Does Eidetic Memory Work

Remembering So Well It’s As If You Are Looking At A Photograph We all know that people remember things with different techniques. It is also a common fact that which type of memory you excel at is more of an innate talent than a trained methodological ability.

Here we talk about one specific type of memory, which is relatively rare. Eidetic memory is a really fascinating way to remember things with specific attention to detail. This article is a brief explanation of exactly how it works, so without further ado, let’s learn!

The Definitions

Firstly, what exactly is eidetic memory? Well, this term is used for the ability to remember an object or an image with high precision for some time after seeing it, without the usage of a mnemonic device. The word eidetic comes from the Greek word εἶδος, pronounced “eidos” which means “visible form.”

Most people describe this type of memory as “seeing the object in question in their minds after only looking at it in the real world for just a few seconds.”

Sounds pretty cool right?

It is, but it’s also very rare, especially if we’re considering the quality of the memories themselves. Roughly less than 10% of children have an eidetic memory, and the number is even smaller in adults. It is speculated that this is because the more we grow up, the more we start depending on words and associations rather than images for our memory. It’s important to mention that of the few people who do have this ability, almost all subconsciously change their memories at least a bit.

This is true for every type of memory one might have and it can happen for different reasons, from telling the story to get specific responses, to forgetting certain bits of information, to even having our memories changed because of the way others reacted. However, this phenomenon can be found in every type of memory and is not something innately unusual.

There is, however, a very odd concept concerning eidetic memory which aims to oppose this occurrence, namely the question, “Is it possible for the brain to remember things just like a photograph?” This idea is called photographic memory, and although it may sound similar to what we’ve previously described, it isn’t exactly the same.

True photographic memory is the ability to see pages of words or numbers for a very short time and recite them perfectly just from memory. The principle it uses is effectively the same as the way a printer works – copying everything to the last detail and producing an exact duplicate – but just by remembering it. Seeing as photographic memory is such a demanding ability, it has not been proven to exist yet.

The Mechanism

Okay now that we have all the basics, how does this rare skill work? Eidetic memory is controlled mainly by the posterior parietal cortex of the brain, which is the part responsible for visual information. The brain, generally speaking, has two sorts of memory – short and long term.

Eidetic memory is part of the first one, or more precisely, it’s the very first few moments after seeing an object, when an image of it is temporarily captured by our brains. If the information is unimportant, it is discarded, and if we decide we need it – it is stored in the short-term memory.

In order for someone to say they have an extraordinary eidetic memory, one’s short-term memory has to be filled with these “photos” of the items and surroundings in question. An accurate example of true eidetic memory could be imagined in a very ordinary situation. Picture that you put your keys on the table instinctively and go about your day. After a few hours, you realize you forgot where you put them, so you trace your steps back in order to find them.

A person with eidetic memory would have an almost exact photo of where his keys were, how they were positioned and what other items were around them, and even where their shadows were pointing. A person with a regular memory would still remember they were on the table, but not have these details.

To Summarize

So what is the conclusion about this interesting phenomenon? Although there are people who have better short-term memory than others and those who train it excel even more, there is no resounding evidence that absolute photographic memory exists. Still, the ability to remember things well is something many of us strive for.

This is why there are numerous techniques to train the different ways we remember as well as some designed specifically for those who want to be eidetic. So if you want to get better, you most certainly can, and with time you’ll be able to amaze yourself and your friends with your abilities!

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