In this post, we are going to touch on the subject of the so-called eidetic memory. What is it? What does it consist of? It is an important concept in psychology . It is a rather special type of memory. It is a capacity that few people have developed to a high level. On the other hand, it is a type of memory .
There are different ways to remember things. In this case, eidetic memory involves a very detailed mode of memorization . This mode of memorization, however, has as a detail that it does not necessarily imply the understanding of things, but only a certain capacity to remember.
To put it another way, the term eidetic memory is largely equivalent to what is popularly called photographic memory . Likewise, it happens that in certain places they call this hieratic memory. Those who have this ability, manage to capture things with great precision. They remember any event, person or event as if they were looking at a photograph. They can even remember the pages of a book and read the text again. Many children have develop this ability, but lose it as they grow.
Levels of detail
In certain cases, the eidetic memory reaches an astonishing level of detail . Cases have been seen of people who remember every word, and even every spelling symbol, in books that even exceed the magnitude of 500 pages. Similarly, there are people who can recall scenes seen years ago, even decades. They can write with great fidelity an event that happened a long time ago. And they do it as if they were describing a photograph that they have in front of them.
What is the scientific explanation for eidetic memory? The reality is that science has not yet given a convincing explanation about it. It is assumed that there is a certain genetic condition that favors this type of memory. However, it has not yet been possible to detect the genes that it triggers in eidetic memory. Likewise, there is a mystery to decipher: the children of people with advanced eidetic memory do not necessarily develop this ability.
The aforementioned indicates that the development of photographic memory has something to do with the way of learning, with the lifestyle of the person, with the way in which they have lived. That is, in addition to a certain genetic predisposition, this ability must also be developed under certain circumstances.
Some considerations on eidetic memory
Photographic memory should not be confused with IQ , or lateral thinking . Much less with the so-called emotional intelligence. Psychologists have even concluded that this type of memory is not a type of intelligence or thought. In other words, it is a simple ability to remember; which in some cases is highly developed, but does not imply understanding of things.
An interesting fact is that many people who have autism , or some type of mental disorder; curiously, they are people with eidetic memory traits . Why was this happening? There is no very or good and convincing explanation about it. In fact, science so far seems to suggest that when the brain does not develop its rational capacity to the maximum, then it develops other abilities, such as the eidetic quality.
About eidetic memory and autism
There are numerous recorded cases of people with autism with incredible photographic memory. Perhaps one of the most famous is that of the North American Kim Peek (1951-2009). This person is listed as a savant. What is a savant ? Human beings with intellectual disabilities are cataloged in this way, but they manage to have a prodigious memory or solve complex mathematical calculations.
This character read a total of 12,000 books , which he could remember with integrity page by page. Another thing that attracted attention was its great reading speed. Doctors realized that he could read with both eyes: each of them being eye lobes read one page at a time. On the other hand, once the book was finished, he could memorize it completely in just one hour.
So peculiar was the life of Kim Peek, that a film was made inspired by his existence. This film is entitled Rain Man , its protagonist being the actor Dustin Hoffman . Perhaps, what most caught the attention of Kim Peek was a person with strong autism, who had enormous problems communicating with other human beings. Likewise, he was unable to fend for himself. He had no ability to perform simple tasks on his own. It was necessary to feed him, bathe him, take care of him, and so on.
You have to be careful when talking about photographic memory. The latter can be considered as a variant of eidetic memory, which is only developed in the visual quality. However, there are people who have eidetic capacity but relative to sounds. They can remember them perfectly, imitate them and combine them later. Some musicians, such as Mozart, seemed to have stability.
Likewise, there is the faculty of eidetics in language . Such is the case with people who can remember entire books. However, do not memorize the image of the books and read them in mind. They actually remember every word. They are people who can also listen to a complete speech, and then repeat it with complete accuracy. If it has been the case of people who go to the cinema, watch and listen to the film, and then they are able to repeat all the dialogues with total fidelity.
Can eidetic memory be trained?
To be honest, if possible. The point is that not all people have the same ability. Each one is going to develop it as far as their natural talent allows. However, it has been shown that ordinary people can have a very good level of eidetic capacity with adequate training. However, only people with this natural ability develop truly powerful memories.
In any case, there are people who usually work to improve this type of memory. Such is the case of those who work in police investigations. There are many detectives who learn to observe a place and obtain all possible details at a glance.
The advantages of eidetic memory school
The truth is that it is very useful in the current educational system. Keep in mind that the school training mode is very much underpinned by memory. Therefore, there are people who can remember things so well that they can pass exams very well.
However, this type of memory has problems at the college level . The education of a university is not based so much on the ability to remember, but on understanding and generating new knowledge. And this is something that is not achieved with eidetic memory, since it is limited to replicating exactly what it has captured. It is not the best for arias of creativity, nor is it thoughtful or philosophical.
In any case, there are professions where this ability is magnificent. For example, the librarians who know where all the books on Santeria are to be found. History teachers who remember all the dates of events. Likewise, those who must catalog object products, must have them in a specific order. There are even certain musicians who are very good at sound eidetic ability, since they can remember a melody or entire concert just by listening to it once. That is, there are certain areas where the eidetic seems to have a great welcome.
Eidetic memory in popular culture
Many characters in film, television or literature have been characterized by having this quality. In recent times, the television series The Big Bang Theory features the character named Sheldon Cooper , who undoubtedly stands out for his incredible memory. In several dozen of this series, he is seen recalling things that happened a long time ago or repeating pages of entire books.
Perhaps the most eidetic character in literature is the famous detective Sherlock Olmes . This character was able to see a person and remember him in all his details. At the same time, with a simple glance he deduced a great deal of information. It seemed to be a kind of mobile camera, capable of collecting a great deal of detail with its gaze.
In any case, in recent times there have been criticisms of this ability. For example, it is said that the educational system at the primary and secondary level is based on the ability of memory. Therefore, those who do very well in the eidetic or have excellent grades. However, they have problems when they get to college. The reason? Well, it happens that they can only remember and repeat, they are not so good at creating or analyzing.
Human beings have progressed thanks to their ability to create. They are a species that has generated new knowledge. They have not just remembered. This is where the faculties of the same enter into crisis. In fact, it happens that many creative personalities like artists or writers seem not to do well in the eidetic field. They can certainly remember and have a good memory. But it is a different memory: emotional memory, or deducing things from the combination of a few memories.
Another criticism of the eidetic is this cessation of empathy and sensitivity completely. Things are remembered coldly, without understanding their impact on other people. Therefore, it is not by chance that people with underdeveloped emotional intelligence (such as people with autism) seem to have no problems developing eidetic-type faculties.
Still, it cannot be denied that the eidetic quality is a great advantage . Being able to remember a large volume of information helps many tasks. However, we insist that you have to be careful. Human beings are not simple files, whose brain is destined to copy information. In reality, the true quality of thought is creativity and knowing how to work with the information obtained.