Eidetic Imagery: Raising More Questions than Answers

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Eidetic Imagery: Raising More Questions than Answers

Anna Arnaudo

Imagine being able to memorize an entire sheet of Russian vocabulary, a list of math equations, or the window arrangement on a large building just by observing it for a few seconds. These are the abilities associated with eidetic imagery, more commonly known as photographic memory. Eidetic imagery has been defined as "the ability to retain an accurate, detailed visual image of a complex scene or pattern... or see an image that is an exact copy of the original sensory experience" (1). People capable of eidetic memory, or eidetikers, are therefore able to recall vivid images within their mind and examine these images as one would examine a photograph. This ability has been particularly interesting to me because I am a visual person and my memories are in the form of images, but I do not have a photographic memory. In searching for the physical explanation behind eidetic imagery and its connection to my visual images, I found that there are more questions about this ability than answers- the largest question being whether or not it truly exists.

Eidetic imagery has been studied for over a century(2) and many studies have been done to test its validity. Individuals capable of superior memory were tested and many were found not to possess eidetic imagery. A study done by Degroot shows that some individuals are highly skilled at organizing information- not actually reproducing the images they see. In his study, chess players were asked to reconstruct certain arrangements of pieces on a chessboard after looking at the arrangement for a brief period of time. It was found that the performance level of an expert chess player would drop to that of a novice when the pieces were arranged in a way that would never actually occur in a game. The initially high performance level of the experts was not due to eidetic imagery; they were simply able to better organize and therefore remember the information because the arrangements could be associated with pre-existing knowledge of chess (7). Although some write off eidetic memory as the ability to organize vast amounts of information, others have found that this ability cannot be used to explain all the cases studied.

The most convincing and unique documentation of eidetic imagery was a case study done by Charles Stromeyer in 1970. The subject of their study, a woman named "Elizabeth," was able to write out poetry in a foreign language years after seeing the original text. She was also able to project her images onto a blank canvas or over the top of other images. Moving her eyes allowed her to scan the projected image, which remained entirely stationary. Her images would break apart instead of fading away slowly(3).

Although Elizabeth is an extreme case, a study done by L. R. Haber and R. N. Haber (1964) documented similar behavior in children with eidetic imagery. The subjects were exposed to a detailed picture placed on an easel for thirty seconds. When the picture was taken away, the children scanned the blank easel in order to describe the image. Their descriptions were given in the present tense, as if they were still looking at the image. From various studies, Haber and Haber found that it is vary rare; approximately 2-15% of elementary school age children are capable of eidetic imagery. There was no connection between gender and incidences of eidetic memory(6). The images lasted at least forty seconds and could persist for up to several minutes. They also had a wide range of accuracy; they could be highly detailed or fragmentary. Participants could voluntarily terminate these images by blinking or looking away. If not terminated, the eidetic images involuntarily faded in a similar manner (4).

Haber and Haber observed that the occurrence of eidetic imagery is lower in adults than children (6). Vygotsky proposed that eidetic imagery is an elementary mental function, meaning that it is innate. These elementary mental functions are then augmented and transformed into what he refers to as higher psychological functions. In the case of eidetic imagery, higher psychological function would constitute using organizational principles and vocabulary to aid memory instead of images (9). This idea of development leading away from the use of eidetic imagery is found in S. M. Kosslyn's attempt to explain the negative correlation between imagery and age. Kosslyn proposes that adults are capable of encoding information using words, but children are not capable of this because they do have not fully developed their verbal abilities (11). This theory suggests then that as young eidetikers grow up their abilities should decline or even become non-existent. There is not much evidence for or against this theory. It would be interesting to observe a group of children over the course of their lives to see if their ability to form eidetic imagery decreases. If their ability decreases, the question of why must be asked. Evidence from Haber indicates that naming interrupts eidetic imagery formation even in young eidetikers (12). If the ability does decrease with age, is their ability transformed as Vygotsky suggested or has it been interrupted by their new language capabilities?

Another set of questions is raised when comparing eidetic imagery with visual imagery. The characteristics outlined by Haber and Haber can be used to distinguish eidetic imagery from visual imagery. Eidetic images depend on exterior stimuli and are considered to be more detailed and longer lasting than visual images(5). Visual imagery allows an individual to visualize objects or create a mental picture without exterior stimuli. This practice is generally referred to as using "the mind's eye" (8). The relationship between eidetic imagery and visual imagery is also not well understood. The physiological underpinnings of both eidetic imagery and visual imagery are also not well understood. Hypotheses range from saying that eidetic imagery is a completely separate internal physical process from visual imagery to saying that eidetic imagery is just a more severe, rare form of visual imagery (5). I would find it interesting to see if young eidetikers develop into visual people like me or if they develop into both visual and auditory people. This could suggest that eidetic imagery is closely related to visual imagery.

It seems possible that visual imagery is a spectrum with non-eidetikers at one end and the extreme cases of eidetikers at the other end. A spectrum would be able to account for the diversity seen within the eidetikers. Elizabeth could be placed at the far end of the spectrum; the fact that she is an adult, has such a long span of memory and illustrates unique image decomposition all suggest that she is very rare eidetiker. If visual imagery and eidetic imagery are related, they should be controlled by similar portions of the brain. The question then becomes, are they located in the same area of the brain as other visual functions? Electronic imaging techniques have been able to show that functions like pattern recognition occur in localized portions of the brain (10). Perhaps further improvements in these techniques can be used to localize imagery formation.

Despite the numerous studies done to explore eidetic imagery, much is still unknown about this unique ability. Cases like Elizabeth and my own ability to visualize convince me that eidetic imagery is indeed possible. In reaching beyond this assertion, I found myself asking more questions after doing my research than before. The answers to these questions could provide fascinating information about the workings and the true abilities of the human brain. It already feels as if seeing people memorizing Russian vocabulary, a list of math equations or window arrangements on a large building does not seem like such a far stretch of the imagination anymore. Imagine the possibilities.

WWW Sources

1) The Definition of Eidetic Imagery,

2) The History of Eidetic Imagery

3) An Adult Eidetiker

4) The Characteristics of Eidetic Memory

5) Comparisons between Eidetic and Visual Imagery

6) Imagery, An imagery lecture outline

7) What is the basis behind a photographic memory?, A discussion about the existence of photographic memory

8) Mental Images, An Introduction to Visual Imagery Theories

9) Vygotsky, A Summation the of Vygotsky's Work

10) Imagery: A Meandering Review of the Literature

11) Psychology,4th ed. Henry Gleitman, 1995, Page 284

12) Zen and Eidetic Imagery, Commentary on Eidetic Imagery

 

Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

10/06/2005, from a Reader on the Web

This is about Anna Arnaudo's Eidetic Imagery: Raising More Questions than Answers. This is very well done, and i can relate to her. i can seem to remember odd details like what people are wearing and there eye color just by seeing them pass by. Or i can remember an area and only be there for a minute or two.


10/08/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I am interested in people who have photographic memories By that I mean, the ability to recall information when it is needed. As a young student, before the end of highschool, I could memorize pages in a textbook. At test time, I could look up the information, in my mind, until I found the info I needed. I could turn pages until I came to area I required. I never thought this was unusual for I thought everyone had this ability. Now, I have discovered that my one son is the ability to read information once and recall it for a test. He too is able to flip pages in his mind until he find the information he seeks. When he studied chemistry, he always had the chart of elements, mentally, at his disposal. Plus, he is able to use these images to reason out problems. For example, he over heard a women saying that she took calcium and iron, together, per her doctor's instruction. By reviewing the physical structure and classification of each element, he came to the conclusion that if this women took both compounds together, these compounds would be less effective than if each were taken in a staggered sequence.


11/13/2005, from a Reader on the Web

hi, i found on this page: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro00/web2/Arnaudo.html the following text: "She was also able to project her images onto a blank canvas or over the top of other images. Moving her eyes allowed her to scan the projected image, which remained entirely stationary. Her images would break apart instead of fading away slowly" what do you mean by "project her images" and "her images would break apart instead of fading away"? Nick Humphrey


11/18/2005, from a Reader on the Web

Neat read. I have always made an (apparently inaccurate) separation between photographic and eidetic memory. I have always told people I have an eidetic memory, not a photographic one. Where I can't simply read something, and forever lock it away for recall, I am involuntarily able to recall the very smallest of details of events regardless of how long ago they may have occoured if I am offered the right "trigger". An easy for-instance: I can't remember my first line of any play I have ever been in, but if someone were to mention a line from the play, I am immediately able to recall all my lines IF that person can continue feeding me the line or so previous to mine. I once did a cold reading of a show I had not done for seven years, and was script-free on my first day. But as I sit here typing, I don't have anything but the fuzziest of recall of the details of the show. The same applies for activities, conversations and image memories. I couldn't draw the lincoln monument right now, but if someone I was with during my visit began discussing it, I could draw it down to the last detail, including how many people were present, and what they were wearing. Very strange stuff.


01/08/2006, from a Reader on the Web

I read a few articles on subject pertaining to how people remember, image and associate and I highly disagree on most of them and the ones I don't have huge gaps. I highly doubt that I'm the only individual in the world that has the missing characteristics. When doing this study have any of you done studies on Eideticers with PTSD I haven't found one yet. I am 26 Yrs old and I am Female suffering from PTSD. I for years have been mistaking my method or curse have you, with photo graphic memory. I can unfortunately vividly remember things from when I was 3 yrs old in color (not fuzzy) the only way I can describe it is like watching twitchy movie clips (no I'm not full of it)I wish I was. there are also associations that can bring them back such as feelings smells tastes dejavus colors etc.... I can not be handed a news paper and remember the print all the time just words that stand out. Show me a picture and I will remember it(in full detail) years later if you tell me to or if I want to. I remember the color of the house I lived in when I was three, the color of my dads harley and what it looked like without never seeing a picture. I Lost my keys for a week once looked every where stopped looking over a weekend then In my sleep visioned, imaged whatever you wanna call it, that my toddler took themm off the coffee table when I dozed and put them in the coffee table drawer I jumped out of bed ran to the table and sure enough they were there why I did't picture it before I don't know I was under a lot of stress and when that occurs my head is not clear I would be interested to see what the reslts on some experiments on me would be. and can I some how get this under control

 

Additional comments made prior to 2007
'Eidetic Imagery' article by Arnaudo-- very interesting especially as it relates to T.F. Torrance Theological Science classic ... Linzy Collins Jr., 6 February 2006

 

 

I am a volunteer in my granddaughter's grade school in the 4th and 5th grades. Over this school year I have given fluency tests to many of the 4th graders where they read unfamiliar passages against a clock. The WPM count is adjusted to reflect their mistakes. There is a set of male identical twins in the 4th grade (two different classrooms). This week I gave the latest fluency test to one of them. He glanced at the page and when told to, began reading as fast as he physically could get the words out. I noticed that he was spinning the page around like a pin wheel the entire time he was "reading." I am so intrigued by this phenominen (as are the teachers) because I (we) have never seen anything like this. The only way I could figure out that he could read 148 WPM was with no mistakes while turning the page was that he had a mental picture of it and was "reading" from that. Could this be eidetic memory? ... Jane Brunzie, 10 February 2006

 

 

In my experience there is your visual spatial memory and also your photographic memory (eidetic imagery). Similar in part and probably controlled by related parts of the brain yet different. In all my exploring on the net within the realm of memory, I have never seen anyone talk about Nikola Tesla, another facinating character in history. Here is a brief excerpt from something I read: "Nikola soon became aware that there were certain characteristics which set him apart from his fellow students, his family, and the world of ordinary beings. ...it was not just an accelerated mind that set him apart. He was conscious of certain phenomena before his eyes which other people could not see. He envisioned objects and hypothetical situations and day dreams with such reality and clarity that he was uncertain whether they did, or did not, exist. When these visions became so real, he confided his dilemma to his sister, who tried to help him distinguish the real from the imaginative." Book: Lightning in his hand. The life story of Nikola Tesla. By: Inez Hunt and Wanetta W. Draper. Date: 1964. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 64-66184. Pages: 20, 21. It's not a matter if you can or can't do this, it is a matter of finding the key to unlock it, the trigger that will give you access. There is not much of interest to me in all my searching, these are things I have already known but can now label with scientific words ... Anon, 30 March 2006

 

 

Some interesting stuff there - Somehow Ive built a 3D map of the world in my mind that I'm able to recall at will. A bit like GIS or sat nav, I need to have either seen a map or picture or video of the location or to have been there, but this only needs to have happened once before I can project the image onto paper and draw it, pretty much to scale. So far most of the UK (again dependent on which map Ive looked at or which place Ive been to, ive got stored in the mind both in map form and in 3D. I can view a 2D map and see it in 3D or even 4D (if changes have occurred through history). I thought all this was normal but it seems it isnt - its very useful in my work as a geologist as I'm able to recall at will the location of where a particular rock came from, the rocktype, structure, palaeoenvironment, how it formed, plus the 2D map and 3D views ... Nick, 31 May 2006

 

 

Hey there..

 

I just read your article about Eidetic memory.

 

I'm 21 of age, male from Denmark, and I believe that i have... to some degree... Eidetic memory, but I am not sure.

 

I read what when growing up, my skills in recording details should decrease, as i learn to verbalise better. I'm a perfectly normal young man, but i do have some small small speech-problems at times. Nothing you hear right away, but if im tired etc., it pops up. Hard to explain i guess.

 

If you are interested in talking in talking, my mail is: JonLNielsen@gmail.com.

 

Hope to hear from you ... Jon Nielsen, 5 June 2006

 

 

Hi
I am 44 years old female, and after being given weird looks all my life about my memory I did a search on the web to see what I had. For Me, I recall mini movie clips with audio and full color of the events that I see. Memories from my childhood start at age 3, I can recall the layout of the house, where the furniture was placed, etc.. and I even remember dreams I had as a small child. To this day, I have perfect recall of meetings with other people, the recall is the same whether it has been 5 minutes or 5 years. I do not recall every word that was spoken only mini clips like a preview of a movie. They are Vivid, full color and I can tell you what everyone is wearing what was said in verbatum, and where they were,etc..

Ocassionaly I get little blups of memory where I recall the event but it looks disorted to me. Can't quite describe this.. I have told several educators about this and they all just give me a weird look.. WHat is this? is it Bad? Do other disorders go with it? For the record I am now a professional photographer. My father was a artist and could draw from memory every detail in a room or place that he had been for only a few minutes ... Laura Vale, 18 June 2006

 

 

I am a fifteen-year-old(I say this only because it is apparently believed that eidetic imagery is more pronounced in the younger population, to my understanding at least) and upon first hearing of "photographic memory", or eidetic imagery, I thought that it sounded like that was the kind of memory that I possesed. However, after researching the topic, I am now not so sure that I do. It seems to me that I might have just an ordinary visual memory not to be confused with a photographic one. This being because of eidetic imagery being defined as an ability to project an image forth in one's mind and be able to scan it as though it was a photograph actually in view. I can recall things in pictures, such as when I take a vocabulary test I can picture the vocabulary sheet given to me beforehand to study from but not in the way as described. I cannot scan the picture as though it were in front of me, however, I can picture the parts of it that I need. I would describe it as me being able to picture a zoomed form of what I need to see instead of being able to scan it like I am reading. So, I was just wondering if that would be classified as an eidetic memory or just a visual memory ... Jeff, 3 August 2006

 

 

I wish to concur with your research findings that adult encoding of information using words ("naming")does interrupt eidetic formation. That's why its lower in adults than children. Formal education with its organizational principles and vocabulary interrupts it. I had active IE until I went to college at age 50. EI is not just photographic memory, its a dynamic process which forms images in the mind's eye in a meaningful way. It can actually put one in touch with one's unconscious thoughts. It is especially valuable to older people who have forgotten much of the verbal information emphasized in school. Memory becomes a matter of imagery once more, and it can bring with it the meaning of a lifetime ... Mary, 13 October 2006

 

 

A few days ago I was told that when I was a child, I had photographic memory and I used to be able to remember every little detail (even the most unimportant details) of what I see. I also remember those days,when I was closing my eyes and recalling images of what I saw. I could remember whole of the scenes I live; losing a toy , forgetting (forgiving) someone's bad behaviour, getting lost were impossible. May be that's why i could developed my drawing skill, by imitating what I see and that memory might have also helped me learn alphabet and reading easier.

 

When I look at the past I see that my efficient memory started to weaken after I started elementary school. Because whole class didn't have the same "ability" I had and since everything I do was faster than the people, I was forced to slow down. Then I started to get bored and started to play silently with pencils and eraser and draw little things at the back of the notebooks.

 

I used to forget what was told but never forget what was shown. When a teacher used to explain something only orally, I usually forgot some part of it. But remembering shapes, figures, photos, symbols, signs, drawings, maps, faces, texts were easy.

 

What i did with text seems interesting to me now. Because I used to spend so little time on "looking at" pages but spending lots of time to "remember". Maybe I was recording the image of the text, and read it then when I need to remember. I cannot read a poem loudly, fluenty or in its proper rythm because it is difficult for me. Memorizing a poem was easy but reading it from my memory was difficult.

 

Although I finished elementary shool with perfect grades, Mid-Education and High-Shool got worse because lots of information was given only or moslty orally. Especially language education was pain-giving.

 

Now, my memory is not that good, it's even worse than average for a 21 person. I tend to forget something easily. I can still remember images easier but not as proper as i was able to. Some say that I unintentionally killed my "ability" slowly, because my brain was having problems with audible and oral memory and tried to recover this by pushing visual memory to the background. It may be true although its underestimating human brain or "my brain".

 

I'm a design student at the university and my visual skill has the key importance to the success, I wish I was trained with children similar to me and I kept this "ability" ... Erdem Batirbek, 12 November 2006

 

 

Fascinating; I'm glad to have found your page on this subject. I've been trying to identify this type of recall which led me to your site. In my day life at work I'm a technical analyst and when there's a problem call - I find myself flipping through the different servers and then into web pages where authentication might be the problem (for example), then out to network connectivity. I can also remember conversations and the whole "scene" where the conversation took place (weather, clothes) - basically I can replay the conversation forward and backward. Though I can remember deadlines with relative accuracy, the good memory hasn't solved my procrastination problem ... Eric Wilkins, 23 January 2006

 

 

I am 53 yrs. old and have just realized that others' memories do not work like mine. I began suspecting it when my children did not learn the way I did. I was adopted when I was 15 mos. old by and American Serviceman and his French wife and spoke and sang in Japanese. I have memory of everything after my adoption but not before except for the Japanese songs and dances I performed. After adoption I was silent for 6 weeks and then suddenly began speaking in full sentences in English shocking my new parents. We were then stationed in Germany where I learned to speak fluently in German in order to play with the children. My mother, having grown up in Nazi occupied France also spoke German so we spoke German in the home, except to my dad. I also spoke some French since Mother still spoke it to me especially when angry. She also taught me the alphabet in French, German and English as well at to count in all three languages. Sometimes my sentences contained words from all three languages that only Mother could understand. All this before the age of 5. In school I could close my eyes and picture any page I wanted during testing. I also had the periodic table memorized in Chem. class. However, I have a learning disability that I only became aware was one when my son was diagnosed with it, in which we can not calculate numbers above a 5th grade level, but as long as I could do calculations on a slide rule higher mathematics was easy and fun for me. Postulates & theorums were just a kind of knowledge I didn't even have to think about so proofs were great fun. I have always read in my sleep much like others dream and rarely ever remember what I was reading, except when I began working as a paralegal I would wake up in the middle of the night with the sudden knowledge of a typographical error and in the morning go to work and fix it. Events in my life run through my mind like a movie, with exact word dialog. Whenever I lose something I also run "a film" from the last time I remember having it to the point in which it became lost and so find it. I don\'t go searching for things of my own. I am however very absent minded about putting things down automatically so have had to use this ability often. Fifteen yrs. ago I was diagnosed with what is called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME in the rest of the world. A brain MRI revealed unidentified bright spots and since that time my memory have suffered. The addition of medications for pain since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2000, and Xanax for Anxiety Disorder that developed from losing nearly all my independance is eroding my memory every year. This grieves me. An IQ test administered by a psychologist when I was 17 revealed a much above average IQ so people try to comfort my lost of "intelligence" with the fact that I can afford to lose some. There is humor in that. This is the first time I have researched any information about photographic memory because as I mentioned I didn't realize I thought differenty than others. I look forward to finding out ... Linda Lee Garrett, 24 February 2007

 

 

i currently know a 7 yr old musical sauvant who is an eiditiker. He can be shown a manuscript of music , he blinks at it and in his words, he is taking a aphotograph of the the music and then if you take the music away he can play it imminently. He can also recall it and play it again at a later date. He is not autistic (medically proven) just an extraordinary musical sauvant. He plays piano keyboard, drums, percussion. Can read all music and emmulate all music played and composes his own works also. He says he takes photographs of everything by blinking the image into his brain and not the other way around. Interesting. Perhaps this would be scientific proof that a photographic memory does exist ... Tracie Ross, 16 March 2007

 

 

I've had this all my life and I'm 43 now. Believe me it's not a gift. At any time I can pull up any image of anything I've ever seen but if my mind wanders or when I get tired the free association of images from my past is not a good thing. My personal experience with it is that the near death experience hightens it if you already had it. For me it's like having a constant camera going on so be careful what you point it at. Normally I'm a field sevice tech and the ability to overlay a 6 inch scale over what you just saw comes in handy without having to do anything but look at it. I knew pretty early that this wasn't normal and I've kept it secret so I wasn't looked at as some sort of abnormal human being. I've also been diagnosed as autistic because of it so that added to the concept of keeping it quiet. Ya a doctor telling me I shouldn't remember in full color detail seemed odd to me and kinda made me mad.After all it is my mind and as long as it works then they can stick to sticking other people. My daughter doesn't have it so add that to the data bank ... Dave, 4 April 2007

 

 

I ama professional pianist and I do this all by memory. Its said to have been a gift since early childhood and I don't read music at all. My question..,..,i'm in my 30's now and my memory is becoming even better, almost to the point of being frustrating. I see walk-on roles of people in movies and can tell you what shows they walked on or starred in in the 70's. I see a waitress in a restaurant (not even the one who waited on me) and I can tell you who the OTHER waitress was while shopping at the grocery store and seeing her in frozen foods. What's wrong with me? I can't seem to shut it off. I remember everything. I guess its better than the alternative. Is this the norm with musically gifted adults? ... Erinsue, 2 May 2007

 

 

I find this all very interesting. I do believe that I have a form of eidetic memory, however I will admit that it is limited. I can not do anything with pictures in the sense of remembering them, I can only manipulate them. For example if given 20 sets of cubes (however dodecahedron's would be a more intense example) with numbers on each side and colours, where I need to find out what a side should be or its location, I simply manipulate the object in my head as if it were 3D. The limitations of course are that I for some reason can become easily distracted and loop the image causing it to spin out of control. That is the extent of my visual abilities. Where I think I really am able to show my eidetic memory is in instruments. There aren't very many instruments I can not play. I can just watch a person play and then play the same thing more or less back again immediately. I am the best at this with piano where I can look from above and see all the fingers moving, other instruments such as the saxophone are harder because It involves me manipulating the pattern they have played into a horizontal plane so I can play it. I am only limited by the fact that some instruments are hard for me to play like flute. I simply can not produce the sounds necessary, however I can mimick the pattern they have played with my fingers. I am just wondering where I fit into all this ... Braden Staudacher, 26 May 2007

 

 

Re: the last comments written Jan, 2006..... I too experience all the same...I thought I was one with a photographic memory......certain scents, eg; my 2nd grade teachers purfum..I came across a woman in a supermarket and remembered the teacher, almost daily I experience all sorts of memories either from scents or sights......My 3 year old has been expressing such strong memories of places and memories.... Eg; We may go to a particuolar place once and a year later drive past and he recalls that we were there, why and what we did....I can retain certain information, i must understand the info full and I must be able to see the spelling in my mind in order to retain too....

 

Is this common? My closest friends say not. I have dreams that come to pass...very strange...is it stress? ... Molly, 8 August 2007

 

 

I am now an adult university student and during a course in psychology someone brought up the topic of Eidetic memory and that it was rare. This prompted me to look farther into the topic and I found your webpage.

 

Since I was very little I have been able to look at a scene and remember it with incredible accuracy, even many years later. This was fantastic during high school as if we had studied a subject on the board or if the material was in the text book, I could mentally go back to the classroom board in my mind and see the problems on the board. I could also flip thru the pages of a text book in my head till I found the corresponding problem. This meant that there was very very few subjects that I had to study for at all. A student who understood the material and studied would always come out ahead of me in marks, but I could easily maintain a 80% average in all classes without one minute of homework.

 

Interestingly enough this caused extreme problems with mathematics. If I had seen a problem/solution in a textbook or on the board, even with different numbers, I could do the ones on the exams, but if they rearranged the formula, even with the same numbers I wouldn't be able to do anything with the information.

 

Now I am 26 and halfway thru university. The ability isn't able to always capture what I want and sometimes it seems like I have too many pictures in my brain. For instance I can remember every registration plate number and make of car on my 40 minute drive to school. Memories like that usually last a few days at most then begin to fade or "corrupt" and peices start to go missing. Subjects that just require memorization are easy for me as I can just scan the entire page of data at once and hold it there for a test.

 

I do not feel that this ability is decreasing, but I do feel that sometimes it takes me a while to sort thru the pictures in my head until I find the one I want. The entire idea has always been interesting to me once I found out that not everyone could do it ... Ryan, 22 August 2007

 

 

Very interesting read. I'm just beginning my study on photographic memory. One of my sons seems to be quite gifted. He is very low in language and language processing, but math is second nature to him, fun, and stimulating. At age three, he could do 100 piece puzzles and amaze people. Two days ago, at age 9, he completed a very complex nine piece puzzle with over 95 billion possibilities in five minutes. And he can reproduce it instantly. No one else in our house could do it. Whenever he does puzzles, he knows what each piece individually looks like and where it will sit in the puzzle, regardless of the other pieces. It's quite fascinating really. This will be an interesting study ... Stephanie, 5 January 2008

Comments

Ewizobeth's picture

Eidetic Memory

I have some form of eidetic memory. In third grade (about eight years old) I wondered if I should tell my teacher how I was taking her spelling tests. She would say a word to the class, and then we would write the word down the way we thought it was spelled. I would copy the word off the back of my forehead, and then wait for everyone else to finish. I decided not to tell her, because I had already gotten in trouble for finishing a textbook in the first weeks of class and then unintentionally asking questions about materials the other kids hadn't read yet. After a teacher-parent conference, I was barred from reading ahead of the class.

After high school, college and graduate school, I assumed my eidetic memory was gone (as predicted by experts) because I never used it anymore. Everyone in my family has a genius I.Q., and this level of intelligence easily takes over any tasks which may have been served by eidetic memory.

However, I believe there is more to learn about eidetic memory. First, in my thirties I was badly traumatized, after which my brain switched to a mixture of verbal language and pictures. For example, an image would flash in my mind, showing a clock at noon, meaning it was time to go to lunch. I think this thinking style faded away after a few years, and it was never dominant.

I have experienced a change in my intellectual abilities for the last eighteen months, which has persisted so far. The trigger was a television show. When "The Big BangTheory" was syndicated recently, I watched most of the episodes in rapid succession for the first time. It was then that I realized I was like the "Sheldon" character. I had had the same problems recognizing sarcasm, because I had tended to be very literal-minded. As an adult I have no problem understanding sarcasm, but I worked very hard to overcome this deficit.

In very rapid succession, I saw myself in Sheldon and then recovered intellectual abilities that I thought were lost, or that I didn't have. This change didn't occur over time; it was instantaneous.

Now I can read words off the back of my forehead again. I use this skill so much now that I actually look up, and then left to right to check the spelling of words. The other significant change is that my verbal memory has changed dramatically. I have always had a large vocabulary. Now, however, it has changed from complete recognition to complete recall. To have instant access to your full vocabulary is very different from just knowing words. Also, the way my brain is doing it, my word choices are not mediated by my conscious mind, but rather, my brain is producing words instantaneously, concurrent with my initial thought. Instead of retrieving words, the words are appearing almost faster than I can manage them. I described this to a friend, by saying "every time I open my mouth a bunch of ten dollar words fall out." At first I looked up these words to confirm they were correct. The words being offered are all exactly correct, so I am learning to work with this new skill with more confidence.

I had many English friends for many years, but as an American I felt it would be inappropriate to adopt their lingo. People are made fun of for doing that. Also, I have always tried to keep a clean and accurate American vocabulary. Now the English words and expressions can't be separated out, so they have been fully incorporated into my vocabulary. I learned German in college, and these words are also becoming increasingly available, again, with great rapidity. Also Japanese and French words, to the limited extent that I know them, are being incorporated into my recall vocabulary. So far as I can tell, every word I have ever learned is active again. None of the words are mediated by my conscious brain.

A relevant factor here is that I am female. I have always experienced discouragement of my intellectual growth, because of social norms separating the roles of males and females. This is not a complaint, but an observation. When I was fourteen, I was transferred from my regular math class to one for gifted children. I finally got my own way and went back to the regular math class. I was embarrassed that I had been singled out as highly intelligent, because it had a negative effect on my social standing with my peers. Some theorists pose that female children fall behind their male counterparts at approximately the age of puberty. The question is, does this happen because of the effect of increased estrogen in the brain, or is it the result of enculturation of females to be more passive and feminine? On the continuum between masculine and feminine personalities, I would be considered extremely feminine.

As an adult I passed the C.P.A. exam, which 70% fail. Many people are never able to pass this test, which is a prerequisite to becoming a licensed C.P.A. (Just there I copied the word "prerequisite" off the back of my forehead.). Being a C.P.A. requires very strong math skills. Also, accountants can go for years without making a math mistake, even though they are working at a fast pace. I have this ability.

One other relevant fact is that I have a detailed memory of learning my first language (English). When I began to realize my parents were talking to each other (because I was beginning to recognize words), I was afraid to talk, because I didn't know if I was allowed to. My thoughts before learning language were very detailed and analytical, so it is not correct to say language is required to perform analysis.

The very first thing I learned about language was the grammatical structure. My first words were small, frequently used words which held the grammatical structure together. I would say "and" was my first word and "the" was an early word. When I was three, I was given beginning books by my neighbor (who was a grade school teacher). I used the same system to learn to read, that I had used to learn to speak. I used small, common words to build the grammatical structure first.

I hope this anecdotal evidence will be helpful to anyone working to advance theories regarding eidetic memory, and also Linguistics.

Anthony's picture

bibliography

Serendip should have a MLA formatted citation for every article it posts.

Anonymous's picture

Eidetic memory; adult autism;

Hello, My partner, aged 55, can recall just about every word, voice and instrumental nuance of popular music (rock, country) from the 60's until the present. I have experienced her recall as we have frequently traveled by car over the last 15 years listening to radio, and most currently to the endless offering of satellite radio. As each tune plays, she mimics in perfect pitch and registry and timing, the music and words of literally hundreds of scores. When asked if she can repeat the tune/words without the "prompting" of the radio, she replies "no". No music-no instantaneous memory. For some time I chalked this up as a "gift or special talent" but now I'm not sure if it isn't a bit more, and whether it's part of an overall makeup that may have some medical or social significance. In parallel, her reaction to olfactory, audio, visual and tactile stimuli are beyond what I perceive as "mid bell-curve", she being at the extreme edge and unable/unwilling to recognize behaviors less sensitive than hers. My focus is to enable me to sort out my own baseline from hers and promote better day to day interactions with her.

Anonymous's picture

Proof against

There is nothing like a eidetic memory and Andriy Slyusarchuk is a scam.

The proof is easy:

There are annual World Memory Championships since 1990. There is lots of prize money for the winner. For example 90,000 US$ this year.

All the winners ever use memory techniques. Noone, who claims to have an eidetic memory ever succeeded. The World record is 2080 digits in one hour. If someone had an eidetic memory and could save a visual image of the sheet with numbers on it, he would easily win. And since the prize money is very high, it is 100% that anyone who really had an eidetic memory would have come to take that money. But noone ever did. Proof done.

S Fr's picture

This argument rests on an

This argument rests on an inaccurate understanding of eidetic memory. The World Championship contestants possess a superior ability to organize memories. This ability to organize memory replaces and supersedes the innate, (developmentally) earlier and less effective eidetic memory.

In other words, adults with eidetic memory may retain and even over-develop this faculty in lieu of the more advanced skill of being able to select and organize their memories. However, most of us do develop these skills to some extent. Consequently, our reliance on our earlier, and comparatively primitive memory skills fades in our early years.

This is natural: individuals who chiefly rely on innate eidetic memory are less able to control and direct their memories. In contrast, the World Championship contestants possess a very high level of that organizational skill.

For example, across the spectrum of Developmental Disorders (such as autism) there is an unusual number of individuals with eidetic "ability". However, a hallmark of these disorders is the extremely limited ability to spontaneously use thought and speech, despite an individual's intelligence.

Along these lines, there are unusually high reports of eidetic memory among those diagnosed with ADHD (thought to belong on the same spectrum); a disorder characterized by the inability to organize and prioritize.

So, we may marvel at our baby's ability to crawl, or roll, or even scoot across the floor on their butt, at amazingly high speed. However, the talent is lost the moment they learn to walk. Similarly, while eidetic memory may be unusually useful at times, it is a not a special gift, but rather an inefficient compensatory adaptation.

SashaJ's picture

Eidetic memory

Just stumbled upon this - great read!

I didn't know it at the time but I would classify my visual memory ability when I was a youth as eidetic. I could quickly review a document or read a chapter and recall it to the most minute detail in my head. It seemed to diminish quickly in my later years of education. This decline is when I began to realize the ability I had - I incorrectly assumed everybody else could quickly memorize an observation the same as me before that.

I look back now and figure the shift in my way of learning was the demise of my "photographic memory". I found great enjoyment and more sense in pattern recognition and connections the more I read and learned.

I'm in my late 30's now and do fairly well in my career as a mechanical engineer. What I still have is a natural knack for visualization, especially as it relates to my work. Number crunching and 3D structural design is as vivid in my thought as if I were walking around it in a showroom. I don't talk about it with peers but felt compelled to share my story after reading this blog.

Boy is it interesting the ramifications from the nuances in brain architecture and development.

Jeff's picture

Kim Peek

Your most extreme example doesn't even come close to the abilities that Kim Peek had. He was the real rain man, who just died December 19, 2009.

But Kim Peek's knowledge extended to 15 areas, including geography, world history, the space programme, religion and music, so he was described as a 'mega-savant'.
His knowledge quotient was set at 188, making him a genius to rank with Einstein.

At 33, he was able to reel off every address in the 50 states of America, complete with zip codes. He could recall the contents of at least 12,000 books from memory and recite them all by heart. Many other amazing recall gifts as well. I encourage all to visit his story and pay tribute to this amazing man who has just left us..
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=inside-the-mind-repost

Just a simple soul's picture

synaesthesia and Bipolar Disorder?

Just this evening I discovered there is a name for the 'unusual' association of numbers with colors, people with colors, seeing sound, etc., I've always had.

So OK; its Cool. I also have what they call 'perfect pitch' - when harmony is perfect my ears buzz and of course, I hear faint harmonics.

I'm Bipolar 2/mixed/rapid cycling. When I'm hypermanic, there are a very few songs that either shower down a color - only for a particular few bars; the sound energy enters me either through the head and both shoulders (more the shoulders)...or needles of white energy light into the fingers of my cupped hands. I must play the music VERY loud. The High is a full, controlled, sweet, wonderful 'push'. (I never did anything but smoke marijuana - and that, briefly - in the 70s)....I consider my experience with the song in my veins the gift of a 'high' without the (dreadful) DRUGS I am on, day to day - -

When I'm hypomanic, the songs ring like tin - with only a faint echo of their former hypermanic glory. Their color, like cardboard and the sound - flat; two dimensional.

Instinct has me wanting to somehow, associate my pathology with depressions - like little 'potholes' on my brain. (I REALIZE this could just be a shot in the dark, but I'd like to 'go' with it)

I've only recently begun to research the use of sound to heal the brain.

The use of pure tones to heal the brain - i.e., binaurally, where each ear is presented with a different sound frequency and the brain "fills the gap" between the two, - is an established modality.

Might this fill my 'potholes', I wonder??

Has anyone with Bipolar Disorder, or have any mental health professionals had any experience with this?

Thanks!

Donna Sumlin's picture

I am 48 and always just knew

I am 48 and always just knew I had an exceptional memory and now I think I have a name for it, idetic memory.

I can remember exact words, conversations from almost my entire life (this is a curse sometimes especially during a disagreement with someone). I remember every address, phone number from everywhere I have lived since age 3. I remember so much detail of my whole life (in color and vivid)that it's like watching 48 years of movies if I want to. If you said you read an article in the local paper last week, I can tell you which section, page number, column size and most words from that article.

Photographs are not as easy to recall but close. I have never been tested or practiced and would be curious to find out more, maybe by a test.

My mind works like a search engine and in conversations with people if they are speaking on almost any subject, my mind automatically pulls information from my memory that is relative. Too much sometimes.
Donna

thecircularmoose's picture

Guess im not so weird

ever since i was little my visual memory has caused a massive amount of trouble, as my elementary school teachers thought I was stupid because I could neither recognize their faces nor their names (and of course couldn't put the two together)

Today I am able to recognize faces and eventually learn a person's name. On my first semester of highschool I discovered, that while I'm not visual and cannot remember names, or the clothes in my drawer; I am lingual and can learn anything that I can say. I have an extrordinary ability to memorize large word and number sequences. In twenty seconds I memorized a 33 digit number and still remember it to the surprise of most people. I can memorize maps, patterns, etc very easily, and have begun memorizing the periodic table; number, symbol, mass and all. I can even multiply three and two digit numbers in my head (haven't yet tried larger).

To compensate for some of my visual and audio memory problems I have figured out a new way to study that allows me to learn material very fast with little work. Awesome to finally have something I'm good at :)

Francesca Thomas's picture

Eidetic memory

Like many other comments on this page, I too am a very visual person. I have always been told that I have an eidetic memory. I can remember visual things that happened, but not the verbal. I have had this memory as a child, I am now 44. It is not photographic. I cannot regurgitate it unless the trigger is there to allow me to verbalise what I see.

Take two examples just in the last month. I had an argument with another person, in my class. I remember turning around to her and I know my brain said to me, (I saw the words Be Quiet in my mind) to say Be Quiet. BUT, apparently I told her to shut up. The teacher says she heard me say Shut up. I do not remember saying shut up. (thats the verbal side of the issue)

Then there is the visual. Just today (in the 4 hours before my exam was due to start) I read 8 pages of notes and practise questions 7 or 8 times. When the exam paper was in front of me, I went down the pages quickly answering true/false questions and multiple choice questions. I was done in 5 minutes and I felt good about what I had done and that I had a good score. I dont know what the score is yet. Now that the exam is over, I could not answer any question verbally unless I read it again.

Being VISUAL is the key.

If I am reading a book (and I am usually reading all the time when I am not online) and I am interrupted, I can remember exactly what part of the page I was reading when I was interrupted (left or right, top middle or bottom) and whether the page was nearer the front, in the middle or at the back of the book.

Lori's picture

Our Crazy Memories

Well, it seems this page gets the occasional post over the year. I'm interested in discussing personally, if anyone is interested, in these crazy memories. I'm 39, and I too have always been able to recall (in color), every detail of a time, situation or place I have been in. I always tell people to give me a time, and I can close my eyes and be there. 2nd grade communion party? Playing barbies w/my best friend at 7? Silly pranks from high school? holidays? Sitting in ANY classroom? Working on any gradeschool art project? ANYTHING! I remember it ALL as if I am living it. I forget nothing, and people laugh at that! I'm just now realizing I am indeed "different". The "photographic memory" thing has finally moved it's way to the front of my priorities. I have had a rough 6 years or so, losing my job, marriage, and many friends because of depression....and I'm now realizing why I cannot forget anything ~ particularly the bad things ~ that most can block out of their minds. As many have said...it's sometimes not such a blessing to recall the painful past vividly as if it was yesterday. But my recall as far as what I've read on fluid memory....well, let's just say, I'm realizing how doggone intelligent I am. Though, you'd never know by my motivation and success. I feel a waste. I feel like I cannot discover where these gifts can be best utilized. I know so much about everything. But you don't make money on trivial info! Or do you? Help! Where! I love that I have this ability ~ but am hurting badly to discover how to benefit. My email address is up4aquest at hotmail. If anyone would like to discuss this, or has any answers; I'd greatly appreciate it. A psychologist who diagnosed me w/ADHD told me I just remember things because I attach emotion to them. Well, yeah! Thanks, pal. He also told me I should forget about looking for birth parents, as it's unimportant. (I was adopted at 3 months, but no, don't recall anything prior to about 2 years old.) Needless to say ~ I ditched him;) Shall we start with my first day of school in 1st grade? :) You name it!

Anonymous-kf's picture

crazy memory -

Hello. I am a 71 year old female writer. I've been curious about everything since I can remember. My father encouraged me to ask questions, and always answered me sensibly, sometimes by demonstrating his answer. He was German, a trained tool and die maker who worked all through the depression and WWII in Detroit auto plants. He was brilliant and an amateur inventor.

I could read when I started first grade at age 5 (it was a small one-room school with grades one through eight, which I loved, and attended for four years before moving to a bigger school) and began piano lessons at the same time. I always finished my schoolwork faster than anyone else and remembered most of it for days and weeks thereafter. Once I learned the musical keyboard I became a better sight-reader than most students, and nearly always sight-read my lessons. The teachers either didn't tumble or didn't care, but I was seldom tripped up.

I began using mnemonics before I knew of the word. When my grandfather started teaching me to drive his plumber's truck, I had a hard time remembering which was the clutch and which the brake. I was 12 at the time, and suddenly realized that cLutch was on the left and bRake was on the right. No more troubles!

I didn't realize it at the time, but my memory (which isn't exactly photographic) must have been a terrific asset, as I was always the top student in my class through the eighth grade, based on testing at the end of the school year. At the end of fourth grade, the teachers wanted to move me to sixth, but my mother refused, as I was already a year younger than the other students. Same again when I went to a big city high school for the ninth grade. As I was still just 13, again Mama refused the promotion. I graduated three months after turning 17. I seldom did homework and graduated with a B+ average, and won a music scholarship to college. I made it through one year before being too bored to continue. I love tests, and always have, but always overachieve on them!

I was actually majoring in music education, but quickly came to realize that as I had no idea of how I learned anything (or why I just seemed to know things) I couldn't very well teach anyone else. This remains true to some extent, although I am doing better at explaining things these days. I don't know if it's connected but my vision was 20/10 until I was in my 40s and needed reading glasses, even though my vision tested at 20/20. I don't have perfect pitch, but I can certainly tell if someone is sharp or flat, by ver little, and can sometimes guess the right note being played, without any prior knowledge.

All my long life, I've had a memory for faces and names and numbers. It drives me nuts that I can still remember every address and phone number I've ever had in all these years! I remember birthdays, too. I seem to have a terrific musical memory, easily identifying a wide variety of classical works after hearing only a measure or two. My daughter always called me the 'trivia queen' and was frustrated because I never tried for any of the major quiz shows.

My memory seems to be somewhat spatial as well. It makes me a great proof-reader, because if I find something contradictory, I can recall what side of the page and whether at the top or bottom where the original reference was located. I can always easily go back and find it.

Four years ago, someone told me my memory was eidetic; I'd always known it wasn't photographic. The descriptions of eidetic that I found at that time seemed to support that fact. Now, however I'm finding other definitions and am slightly confused. It's been interesting having this memory, however, but it would have been much easier for me (and those around me) had we known this all along. Please know that none of this is meant in a bragging way, just trying to state facts as honestly as I can. I know lots of things, and have a great deal of common sense, but little in the way of 'street smarts'.

I am not exactly ambidextrous, being right-handed for eating, writing, etc. However, while in high school, I taught myself how to switch hit in baseball, and discovered that I do better at ping-pong or pool with my left hand. I'm left-eyed, however, and once I figured that out in relation to rifle or pistol shooting, I was able to out-shoot either of my husbands, or any of their friends, which didn't make me very popular. It never occurred to me to miss on purpose.

I'm not much of a house-keeper, but as long as no one disturbs anything, I can usually find anything I'm looking for very easily. Even if it's buried under a stack of papers!

Brandon Ragland's picture

I Have Eidetic Memory, My Story

I have been tested and diagnosed. You would be surprisd at the amount of mis-understanding behind this there is. My Doctors do speacialize in the area of the brain that involves memory, and therefore I went to them to ask what my ability was.

When I was in school, almost al of my friends would come up to me and tell me something random that had no emotional effect on me whatsoever, then at the end of the day, BAM irepeated it word for word. My teachers allowed me to NOT take notes as they realized it didn't impact my Straight A's if I studied or not. Truth is, I study, but not with notes, but with the actual Video-Like replay of the day I have. This is where it gets to the point of "Why can't everyone else do it" I use to alays ask myself this because I thaught it was normal, however, I knew nobody else who had my memory powers. I could read a page (7oo words) in under 30 seconds, then, in my ECR, BCR, and Essays I would be able to quote exact text. Sometims people blamed for cheating when what I wrote was the exact same thing, becauseit was, but I had only 3 seconds of exposure to the 12 line paragraph.

Here is what I do. I don't actually read my book, I just look at them. Only when I want some of that information do I actually go back in my mind and look over some of my detls I had read. If I want to enjoy the book, then I actually read it word for word at a different time, in my head, or I just don't read it until a question on an ECR tells me to explain why Bobby Jack went over to Janny'shouse, then I just go back, BAM, I state things for what they are word for word.

I'm 13, and yet I can pull information when I lived in Washington State 12 years ago, I can remember exact details of a picture after looking at oit for 2 seconds, or less. I can do so many things that until I was 13 I thaught everyone else did normally too. But then, I realized, I'll test others. So heres what I did.

I had my Friend Nick creat a paper with 20 boxes on it, each box yeliding its own image, different from the previou and the next, none repeating. I told him to give Me, Miguel, and Brian each 30 Seconds to look over it. Then he would quiz us on each box, in random order 5 minutes later, 6 hours later, and finally 1 week later. Nobody even made the 5 minute test but me. He graded us like so: each box = 5 points. My friends all got between a 45-65. I got a 100 on the 5 minute test. on the 6 Hour test, I got a 100 and on the 1 week test, I got a 95. On the week test, my friends got: 5 (WOW)

I didn't test Nick sense he was the creator and because of this he could have altered his results. Then I told my Mom and Dad, they said "Why don't we take you to see Dr. Shue on Friday" and I did, then she preform 48 diferent test, several similiar to the one I made and I did outstanding.

Now I could explain why I could remember random crap that I had only seconds of eposure to and remember it so vividly weeks, mounths, and even years later, that others seem to fail at so stupidly. (not that there stupid). Things I wanted to remember or not, where always remembered. Would you remember if your friend told you to memorize this number: 123987564557-998 and one week later ask you for the numbr and you gave it back, and he only told you once, no more. I could.

Would you remember a video frame-for-frame if you only saw it once, it was 5:00min long and you could draw it again, each picture 2 mounths later, I do.

Would you remember atleast 75% of everything on a page in abook 1 weklater and read back important portions of it word-for-word, I do.

What puzz;ed me, was that I thaught this was normal and that everyone possed this powered and those who didn't remember things wheren't paying attention. But really, they where, there brains just took longer then 2-30 seconds to remember things.

Sometimes it is awesome to remember like this, other times, it is sad...when someone hurts you emotionally, or someone else and it didn't bother you, it will haunt you. Many things haunt me that shouldn't. My mom can't even remember the time I lost my speacial blanket (I was 1 1/2) yet I can, and recently I ca remember things that upset others that they don't even remember!!

It can be a good and bad thing for many reasons. I make the bets of it.It is good. I always get asked who was wrong in a situation when someone gets in a fight and I could write an essay about it that was 200 pages long if I wanted to about what happened when others just say "Ohh, well....I maybe thing Matt started it"

Its cool, I like my ability...I also excersise it because my doctor said for me to because supossedly it will go away by the end of my teen ages. But She thinks that if I actually use it often and use it more then most people with my condition, I miht be able to keep it stronger. I am following her advice it seems to be working, but I do have to admit, I am not in the mood to worry about it wright now, but I would say when I'm 16, I will probably be thinking about it all the time...what will it be like to forget things for no reason when I always remember stupid crap for no reason....don't know, don't care :)

kayc's picture

? Possible form of eidetic memory ?

My name is Sarah, I live in southern CA and I'm 24.
I can tell you where anything is after spending time in a place. This is especially true with my home and place of work. It's not stored as a video clip or picture in my mind but rather retained similar to a card catalog in a library. My photographic memory is activated when asked a question regarding the location of an item. At that moment I sort of focus or zoom in with precision and detail. The intriguing fact being that my brain takes note or catalogs every item (without my knowledge/subcosciencely), wherever I go. All the while I stand clueless yet (ok I admit), totally impressed as I give honed-in coordinates for an object.
!! I would appreciate input from a doctor or someone knowledgeable who can tell me how I have come to be and what it means !!

Blue eyes's picture

eidetic memory

I have had a very hard time with my mind in my life. I can remember past relationships. Mostly the bad stuff it plays over and over in my head like a broken record. I was wondering if anyone knew of a great psychologist that could block out images?

Anonymous's picture

Wow, great website!

Wow, great website!
I have spent most of my adult life wondering if there was anyone else out there that was like me.
Thank you very much to the previous comment posters, you made my day!
I to grew up thinking every person had this ability.
It wasn't until I was a late teenager when someone asked me how I did pencil drawings and when I explained the reply I got was "That's an incredible talent to have!"

Anyway, I'm 46, male, a Professional Digital Graphic Artist.
In the 90's I heard the term synasthaesia for the first time and while I had many of the synasthaesia symptoms I always felt disappointed by the first hand synasthaesia stories I heard.
Synasthaesia seemed very basic, I just thought I had "synasthaesia-plus".

Here is my experience:
I can remember in detail, images from my childhood, how people looked, the visual distance of furniture in my parents house, etc, etc.
I can perceive any image from a single two-dimensional view and recreate it in three dimensions in my head.
These images are just as detailed as reality.
This is both internal and external.
For instance, once I see a persons face, I can create the unseen views and rotate the face from any angle.
Then I mentally project the image onto a blank sheet of paper and draw it (which is really a tracing).
I can do this with a high degree of accuracy. (Lately, somewhere around .005" - for sculpting physical objects)
These recorded images can also be "manipulated" as well, simply by pulling and moving certain areas of the image in my mind.
I can also "scratch-build" any mental image with any amount of detail.
When my eyes are shut it is if I am standing on a dark horizon that is covered horizontally 360º.
From this dark horizon the images emerge as though they are arising from a pool of liquid.
Other times simply flashing across this horizon at a very fast pace.

Like images I also collect sound memories and I am an Audiophile.
I can remember every instrument's sound, in detail, I've heard through my lifetime.
This is one area where sound and vision are connected. When I listen to music I see what I would call a "frequency" chart or graph.
This visual display stands about three feet from my face, sometimes it is red, other-times it is white against darker room lighting conditions.
This chart is very simple in shape, comprised of a single internal horizontal line.
It gives an accurate display of frequency response to the music and equipment that I am using.
It is fluid and moves with the music, it has no numbers to chart it, but if asked I'm able to report the frequency number.

As I've grown older my hearing has become more hypersensitive.
Also add the factor that one's hearing changes continuously from the moment you rise to the time you go back to sleep.
I am also very picky about audio equipment (trust me, this can be expensive) and VERY hypersensitive to fluctuating AC power quality from the Electric Co. and its effect on my audio equipment sound quality.

I am curious what experts on this subject thought the number of eidetikers exist.

Thanks again for your website!

Anonymous's picture

Until recently, I didn't

Until recently, I didn't even realize that I thought any differently than others. Like many of the people that posted before me, I thought everyone had a visual mememory. The other day I was at a friend's house looking at some stuff he wanted to show me online. My friend clicked off the web page before I was through reading it (I was reading outloud). I just held the image of the page in my mind and continued to read until I was done. I didn't think anything about it until my friend commented on it. He couldn't understand how I had memorized it all, and when I told him I hadn't I was just reading it, he was amazed. I do not have the ability to flip through pages of information as some people do, but I can keep a visual image of a part of a page in my memery and pull it up later. The best way that I can explian it is like looking at a picture of text that is too small to read, your mind registers that there is a text box but you can't read it because it is too small. If I look at a whole page in a text book, I can bring up a visual image in my mind of the page complete with pictures, captions, text, but I will probably only be able to read back the captions becuase they will appear as words where the text will only appear as a text block, sort of like if a friend held up the book from across the room. If I focus on a specific part of the text and visually blow that part up, than I can read it which is what I did when I was reading the computer screen. I did not save a mental picture of the whole screen just the part I needed to see.

All of my memories are visual- detail colored images- going back to when I was a toddler. I can also look at the room I am in, close my eyes and see an almost exact picture of that room. I can describe in detail where everything in the room is and what color, shape, or size it is. Later, I can reacall the same image but it will not be as clear as if I just shut my eyes. I can also move objects around in space. I can form an image of the room and then shift the image to show what it would look like from different perspectives. I can do the same with any 3d object. It reminds me of a car on one of those turn tables at a dealership. I form the image in my mind from a memory and then can spin it around and see it from any side or angle. This was really useful when I took a drafting class in school. I can also play back whole movies scene by scene in my head only minus the audio. My coworkers will catch me staring off into space at work or say something to me and I won't hear them becuase I can get so cuaght up in rewatching a movie or tv show that I do not notice anything else. Besides being able to recall images I have seen before. I can also create new images in my mind. I am especially good at writing in my mind. It is kind of hard to explian, but if I think about the letter a I can form an image of the letter in my mind. Usually it appears in my handwriting but i can change the font if I want to. It is like an invisible hand is writing across a blackborad. For some reason the letters are in white on black, but I think if I tried I could make them appear in colors. Also, I do not see an image with my eyes open that then fades shortly later. I see a very close aproximate to a photograph of what I just viewed when I close my eyes, and can hold the image for as long as I need it. I can even pull the image back up a week or a year later, depending. What I see is not projected out in front of me. It is in my mind. If my eyes are closed, i see the image instead of the black of the back of my eyelids. I only ever see black when my eyes are closed if I focus really hard on seeing black. It is really hard for me to clear my mind of images to just see my eyelids. Sometimes impossible. When my eyes are open, it is almost like I am looking backward into my head. I can see what is in front of me and what is behind me (the visual mental image) at the same time whichever i focus on is the one in the clearer focus, and I can switch between the two easily.

I do not know what kind of memory I have -eiditic or visual or something else. It doesn't really sound exactly like what I have read about eidictic, but it seems like more than just visual memory so... I would love to know what others think, and if there are others who can do the things I have described.

Also, I don't really know if it matters, but I am a 23 year old student. I have abovde average artistic skills probably becuase I can visualize so well. My IQ is 120 something, I do not remember exactly, and the test I took was a real IQ test. (not one of the online ones. In case anyone is wondering you cannot get an accurate iq test online. The real test is a complictaed long multipart test that has to be administered by a real person and comes complete with about twenty pages of results. They are not even allowed to just give you a number.) I also have a visual proccessing problem that I was not diagnosed with until I was in highschool. I do not really understand it exactly. I just know that if it takes you 20 minutes to read something, it will take me 40 minutes. It has something to do with there being a delay between when my eyes see a word and when my brain registers the word.

I would love to know if anyone has any ideas about the visual images I can see.

Cheng's picture

Eidetic memory

I can recall events, instances, conversations since I was 2 years old. Someone at work lost the minutes of a 2 hour meeting and I wrote it down and reorganised it in my head. I can recall every conversation that I had. I can associate the memory with the feelings that I have at that time. This ability has faded as I approached my 40s but I can recall if I make an effort. I wish I knew what it was when I was younger and like most people who had this ability, I assumed it was normal.

Anonymous's picture

Eidetic Imagery/Memory

Check out the essays on Dr. Bill Long's website regarding eidetic memories. There are 10 essays describing what it is like for a person who is a "human camera."

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