Eidetic memory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Eidetic memory, photographic memory, or total recall is the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme accuracy and in abundant volume. The word eidetic (pronounced /аɪˈdɛtɪk/) means related to extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall of visual images, and comes from the Greek word είδος (eidos), which means "form".[1] Eidetic memory can have a very different meaning for memory experts who use the picture elicitation method to detect it. Eidetic memory as observed in children is typified by the ability of an individual to study an image for approximately 30 seconds, and maintain a nearly perfect photographic memory of that image for a short time once it has been removed—indeed such eidetikers claim to "see" the image on the blank canvas as vividly and in as perfect detail as if it were still there.

While many artists and composers such as Claude Monet and Mozart are commonly thought to have had eidetic memory, it is possible that their memories simply became highly trained in their respective fields of art, as they each devoted large portions of their waking hours towards the improvement of their abilities.[2]


[edit] Memory records

Guinness World Records lists people with extraordinary memories. For example, on July 2, 2005, Akira Haraguchi managed to recite pi's first 83,431 decimal places from memory and more recently to 100,000 decimal places in 16 hours (October 4, 2006). The 2004 World Memory Champion Ben Pridmore memorized the order of cards in a randomly shuffled 52-card deck in 24.68 seconds. The authors of the Guinness Book of Records, Norris and Ross McWhirter, had extraordinary memory, in that they could recall any entry in the book on demand, and did so weekly in response to audience questions on the long-running television show Record Breakers. However, such results can be duplicated using mental images and the "method of loci".

Andriy Slyusarchuk, a Ukrainian professor from Lviv was able to memorize 1,000,000 decimal places of pi in that he was able to recall any group of digits being given a page number, column and row from the pi's 1,000,000 digits printed in tabled form on multiple pages. [3]

Some individuals with autism display extraordinary memory, including those with related conditions such as Asperger's syndrome. Autistic savants are a rarity but they, in particular, show signs of spectacular memory. However, most individuals with a diagnosis of autism do not possess eidetic memory.

Synesthesia has also been credited as an enhancement of auditory memory, but only for information that triggers a synesthetic reaction. However, some synesthetes have been found to have a more acute than normal "perfect color" sense with which they are able to match color shades nearly perfectly after extended periods of time, without the accompanying synesthetic reaction.

Many people who generally have a good memory claim to have eidetic memory. However, there are distinct differences in the manner in which information is processed. People who have a generally capable memory often use mnemonic devices to retain information while those with eidetic memory remember very specific details, such as where a person was standing, what the person was wearing, etc. They may recall an event with great detail while those with a normal memory remember daily routines rather than specific details that may have interrupted a routine.

Also, it is not uncommon that some people may experience 'sporadic eidetic memory', where they may describe a rather limited number of memories in very close detail. These sporadic occurrences of eidetic memory are not triggered consciously in most cases.

[edit] Controversy

Dr. Marvin Minsky, in his book The Society of Mind, was unable to verify claims of eidetic memory and considered reports of eidetic memory to be an "unfounded myth".

Support for the belief that eidetic memory could be a myth was supplied by the psychologist Adriaan de Groot, who conducted an experiment into the ability of chess Grandmasters to memorize complex positions of chess pieces on a chess board. Initially it was found that these experts could recall surprising amounts of information, far more than non-experts, suggesting eidetic skills. However, when the experts were presented with arrangements of chess pieces that could never occur in a game, their recall was no better than the non-experts, implying that they had developed an ability to organise certain types of information, rather than possessing innate eidetic ability.

Some people attribute exceptional powers of memory to enhanced memory techniques as opposed to any kind of innate difference in the brain. However, support for the belief that eidetic memory is a real phenomenon has been supplied by some studies. Charles Stromeyer studied his future wife Elizabeth who could recall poetry written in a foreign language that she did not understand years after she had first seen the poem. She also could recall random dot patterns with such fidelity as to combine two patterns into a stereoscopic image.[4] She remains the only person to have passed such a test. However, the credibility of the findings about Elizabeth are highly questionable seeing as the researcher married his subject, and the tests have never been repeated. Elizabeth refuses to repeat them.[5] There are more complex figures in Foundations of Cyclopean Perception, a book on such patterns by Bela Julesz.[6]

A.R. Luria wrote a famous account, Mind of a Mnemonist, of a subject with a remarkable memory, S.V. Shereshevskii; among various extraordinary feats, he could memorize lengthy lists of random words and recall them perfectly decades later. Luria believed the man had effectively unlimited recall; Shereshevskii is believed by some to be a prodigious savant like Kim Peek. He used memorisation techniques where he "arranged" objects along a specific stretch of Gorky Road and went back and "picked" them up one by one. He missed an egg once because he claims he placed it by a white picket fence and did not see it when he went back for it. This is an example of a trained memory rather than an eidetic or photographic memory.

[edit] People with eidetic memory

A number of people claim to have eidetic memory, but until 2008, nearly no one had been tested and documented as having a memory that is truly photographic in a literal sense.[7] Regardless, a number of individuals with extraordinary memory that have been labeled by some as eidetikers.[8]

  • Swami Vivekananda, famous Indian philosopher and Guru. It was recorded in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda that he had memorized ten volumes of encyclopedia in very few days.[9] He explains his powers as "simply by the observance of strict Brahmacharya (continence) all learning can be mastered in a very short time -- one has an unfailing memory of what one hears or knows but once".
  • Sukarno, the father of Indonesian independence and the first president of The Republic of Indonesia had a photographic memory, which helped him in his languages learning.[10]
  • Napoleon Bird was an English barber in the 19th century. According to The Oxford Companion to Music (6th edition, 1945), he showed a massive feat of memory by '...publicly playing for forty-four hours without repeating a composition; from 11pm to 3am he played dance music for hundreds of couples, and, during the subsequent forty hours, whenever any vocalist or instrumentalist appeared and asked to be accompanied, the mere statement of the piece and the key required were sufficient.'
  • Hans von Bülow was a 19th century pianist and conductor with what could be described as a perfect musical memory. He could play both Brahms' and Beethoven's entire piano works from memory, and conducted the first performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde without the score, having never heard it before but studying the score pre-emptively, which was enough for him to memorise a work — he did not need to hear it.
  • Stephen Wiltshire, MBE, is a prodigious savant,[11] capable of drawing the entire skyline of a city after a helicopter ride.[12]
  • Wynne Kulman, able to memorize textbooks, serial numbers, and other documents after reading them just once.
  • Kim Peek, prodigious savant
  • Tom Morton, a taxi driver, knew over 16,000 telephone numbers in Lancashire and beat the British Olympia Telephone Exchange computer with his recall while being interviewed by Esther Rantzen and Adrian Mills on the popular BBC magazine programme That's Life! in 1993.[13]
  • Nikola Tesla[14]
  • Said Nursî, a Turkish Islamic scholar who was able to recite many books from memory. For instance "... So then he [Molla Fethullah] decided to test his memory and handed him a copy of the work by Al-Hariri of Basra (1054-1122) — also famous for his intelligence and power of memory — called Maqamat al-Hariri. Molla Said read one page once, memorized it, then repeated it by heart. Molla Fethullah expressed his amazement." [15]
  • Abbie Hoffman, the charismatic leader of the Yippie movement. He states his ability in his 1968 book Revolution for the Hell of It.
  • Sandra Schimmel Gold, a well known artist, was studied for years at the State University of New York in Oneonta by Dr. Michael Siegel. A paper about her abilities was presented at the national APA convention in 1976-77.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart appeared to have a perfect musical memory (whether this is related to eidetic memory remains to be argued). As a young adolescent, he wrote down Allegri's Misere entirely from memory after hearing it only once, making only minor corrections later. Others such as Ludwig van Beethoven have shown similar capacity, personally premiering a piano concerto and performing without the piano part.
  • Business tycoon Charles R. Schwab could remember the names of 8,000 employees.
  • Andriy Slyusarchuk, a Ukrainian professor from Lviv (see Ukrainian Wikipedia article http://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Слюсарчук_Андрій_Тихонович ), achieved a world record (on February 28, 2006) after having memorized 5,100 numbers in two minutes.[16][17]
  • Sergei Rachmaninov, one of Russia's most famous composers and pianists, is said to have been able to perfectly recall any musical score after sight reading it just twice.
  • Luke Mason, a British student, is able to memorize extremely large pieces of text within one glance and recall with perfect accuracy.
  • Franco Magnani is an artist obsessed with his home village of Pontito in Tuscany. Although Magnani has not seen his village in many years, he has constructed a detailed, highly-accurate, three-dimensional model of Pontito in his head. He is discussed in Oliver Sacks's An Anthropologist On Mars.
  • Jang Paul, a player on the Korea DPR national football team has the ability to recite every pass and shot at the conclusion of every match.
  • Desi Arnaz, husband of Lucille Ball and co-star of I Love Lucy was able to memorize his script after reading it through once.
  • Adolf Hitler It is widely reported that Hitler could recall detailed facts in production and war.
  • Muhammad Ibn Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Bardizbah al-Bukhari, an Ulema and Muhaddith. It is said about him that he was endowed by nature with great intellect while being physically frail. He possessed a sharp and photographic memory, and a great tenacity of purpose, which served him well in his academic life."[18] At the age of 10, he learned 100,000 authentic and 200,000 unauthentic hadith.[19]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ "Eidetic". American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.. 2000. http://www.bartleby.com/61/91/E0059100.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-12. 
  2. ^ "Monet painted from memory". http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/rouen/. Retrieved on 2007-05-28. 
  3. ^ http://www.book.adamant.ua/akt/2slysar4uk/1.htm Book of records of Ukraine
  4. ^ Stromeyer, C. F., Psotka, J. (1970). "The detailed texture of eidetic images". Nature 225: 346–349. doi:10.1038/225346a0. 
  5. ^ http://www.slate.com/id/2140685
  6. ^ ^ Julesz, B. (1971). Foundations of Cyclopean Perception. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-41527-9.
  7. ^ "No One Has a Photographic Memory". http://www.slate.com/id/2140685/. 
  8. ^ "Is there such a thing as a photographic memory? Scientific American". http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=0001148F-EAB0-1E3A-82FC809EC5880000. Retrieved on 2007-03-12. 
  9. ^ Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda - vol 7 - Conversations & Dialogues
  10. ^ Ludwig M., Arnold (2004). King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership. University Press of Kentucky. p. 150.
  11. ^ Treffert, Darold (1989). Extraordinary People: understanding "idiot savants". New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0060159456. 
  12. ^ David Martin. Savants: Charting "islands of genius", CNN broadcast September 14, 2006
  13. ^ Memory man left pi and dry (1998-03-08). BBC News. Last accessed 2007-11-14
  14. ^ Cheney, Margaret. Tesla: Man Out of Time, 1979. ISBN
  15. ^ Şükran Vahide. (2005). Islam in Modern Turkey. State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-6515-2
  16. ^ As Easy As Pi
  17. ^ Ukrainian Book of Records
  18. ^ http://fatwa-online.com/classicalbooks/hadeeth/0000101.htm
  19. ^ http://www.theclearpath.com/viewtopic.php?t=6
Personal tools