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Eidetic imagery, 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 /aɪˈdɛtɨk/) 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.

Although many adults demonstrate extraordinary memory abilities, it is unknown whether true eidetic memory can persist into adulthood.[2][3][4][5] While many famous artists and composers (Claude Monet[6] 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. Such a focus on their individual arts most likely improved the relevant parts of their memory, which may account for their surprising abilities. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

OverviewEdit

While people with photographic memory will very precisely recall visual information, a person with eidetic memory is not limited to merely visual recall – theoretically they can recall other aspects of the event including sensory information that is visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory, as well as other dimensions. Most discussions end up conflating eidetic memory with photographic memory, because the discussion tends to shift toward "eidetic imagery" which is basically the portion of eidetic memory that is visual in nature.

One type of 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 eidetickers claim to "see" the image on the blank canvas as vividly and in as perfect detail as if it were still there. Much like any other memory, the intensity of the recall may be subject to several factors such as duration and frequency of exposure to the stimulus, conscious observation, relevance to the person, etc. This fact stands in contrast to the general misinterpretation of the term which assumes a constant and total recall of all events.

Some 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 (such as division of an idea into enumerable elements) 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 greater detail while those with a different memory remember daily routines rather than specific details that may have interrupted a routine. However, this process is generally most evident when those with eidetic memory make an effort to remember such details.

Also, it is not uncommon that some people may experience 'sporadic eidetic memory', where they may describe some number of memories in very close detail. These sporadic occurrences of eidetic memory are not triggered consciously in most cases.[How to reference and link to summary or text]


People with eidetic memoryEdit

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

  • André-Marie Ampère, French physicist and mathematician.[9]
  • Henri Poincaré[10]
  • Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan
  • John Von Neumann
  • Stephen Wiltshire, MBE, is a prodigious savant,[11] capable of drawing the entire skyline of a city after a helicopter ride.[12]
  • Kim Peek "prodigious savant"
  • Nikola Tesla[13]
  • 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.

Memory recordsEdit

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 31.03 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".

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, 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.

Eidetic memory in chimpanzeesEdit

A recent study on chimpanzee cognition has shown that young chimps performed a visual memory task better than comparably trained adult humans. To explain these results, Researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa has suggested that after diverging from an ancestor common to humans and chimps, humans may have "traded" eidetic memory for higher cognitive capacities like language, while chimps retained a strong capacity for visual memory.[14]


ControversyEdit

Much of the current popular controversy surrounding eidetic memory results from an over-application of the term to almost any example of extraordinary memory skill. The existence of extraordinary memory skills is reasonably well-documented, and appears to result from a combination of innate skills, learned tactics, and extraordinary knowledge bases (one can remember more of what one understands than one can of meaningless or unconnected information). Technically, though, eidetic memory means memory for a sensory event that is as accurate as if the person were still viewing, or hearing, the original object or event. Almost all claims of "eidetic memory" fall well outside this narrow definition.[citation needed] A handful of recent studies have suggested that there may be a few, rare individuals who are capable of a limited amount of eidetic recall.[citation needed] This recall is theorized to be essentially 'unprocessed' sensory memory of raw sensory events (i.e. "raw" images devoid of the additional (usually automatic) perceptual processing, which in normal memory inseparably attaches to the image information about the object's identity and meaning). The documented eidetic abilities, however, appear to be far more circumscribed, and far less common than popularly imagined.

The American cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, in his book The Society of Mind (1988), considered reports of eidetic memory to be an "unfounded myth".[15]

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. Strong scientific skepticism about the existence of eidetic memory was fueled around 1970 by Charles Stromeyer who studied his future wife Elizabeth, who claimed that she could recall poetry written in a foreign language that she did not understand years after she had first seen the poem. She also could, apparently, recall random dot patterns with such fidelity as to combine two patterns into a stereoscopic image.[16][17] She remains the only person documented to have passed such a test. However, the methodology of the testing procedures used is questionable (especially given the extraordinary nature of the claims being made)[18] as is the fact that the researcher married his subject, and that the tests have never been repeated (Elizabeth has consistently refused to repeat them)[19] raises further concerns. Recently there has been a renewal of interest in the area, with more careful controls and far less spectacular results.[citation needed]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[attribution needed] to be a prodigious savant like Kim Peek. He used memorization 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[citation needed]. This is an example of a trained memory that uses the method of loci rather than an eidetic or photographic memory.

Further evidence on this skepticism towards the existence of eidetic memories is given by a non-scientific event: The World Memory Championships. This annual competition in different memory disciplines is nearly totally based on visual tasks (9 out of 10 events are displayed visually, the tenth event is presented by audio). Since the champions can win lucrative prizes (the total prize money for the World Memory Championships 2010 is US$90,000), it should attract people who can beat those tests easily by reproducing visual images of the presented material during the recall. But, indeed, not a single memory champion has ever (the event has taken place since 1990) reported to have an eidetic memory. Instead, without a single exception, all winners name themselves mnemonists (see below) and rely on using mnemonic strategies, mostly the method of loci. [citation needed]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. Taking a Picture of Good Memory Newspaper article; The Washington Times, October 2, 2003
  3. Ask the Expert: Is there such a thing as a photographic memory? Scientific American. URL accessed on 2007-03-12.
  4. The Truth About Photographic Memory. URL accessed on 2006-03.
  5. Joseph Foer. No One Has a Photographic Memory. URL accessed on 2006-04-27.
  6. Monet painted from memory. URL accessed on 2007-05-28.
  7. No One Has a Photographic Memory.
  8. Is there such a thing as a photographic memory? Scientific American. URL accessed on 2007-03-12.
  9. E.Sartori, "Histoire des grands scientifiques français",Plon,1999,ISBN: 2.259.19071.5. - (in French)
  10. Toulouse, E., 1910. Henri Poincaré. - (Source biography in French)
  11. Dr. Darold Treffert, Extraordinary People documenting the Savant Syndrome
  12. David Martin, Savants: Charting "islands of genius" CNN broadcast September 14, 2006
  13. Cheney, Margaret, "Tesla: Man Out of Time", 1979. ISBN
  14. 5-year-old chimp beats college kids in computer game - CNN.com
  15. Marvin Minsky (1998). Society of Mind, Simon & Schuster. "...we often hear about people with 'photographic memories' that enable them to quickly memorize all the fine details of a complicated picture or a page of text in a few seconds. So far as I can tell, all of these tales are unfounded myths, and only professional magicians or charlatans can produce such demonstrations."
  16. Stromeyer, C. F., Psotka, J. (1970). The detailed texture of eidetic images. Nature 225 (5230): 346–349.
  17. Thomas, N.J.T. (2010). Other Quasi-Perceptual Phenomena. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  18. Blakemore, C., Braddick, O., & Gregory, R.L. (1970). Detailed Texture of Eidetic Images: A Discussion. Nature, 226, 1267–1268.
  19. http://www.slate.com/id/2140685
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Memory
Types of memory
Articulatory suppression‎ | Auditory memory | Autobiographical memory | Collective memory | Early memories | Echoic Memory | Eidetic memory | Episodic memory | Episodic-like memory  | Explicit memory  |Exosomatic memory | False memory |Flashbulb memory | Iconic memory | Implicit memory | Institutional memory | Long term memory | Music-related memory | Procedural memory | Prospective memory | Repressed memory | Retrospective memory | Semantic memory | Sensory memory | Short term memory | Spatial memory | State-dependent memory | Tonal memory | Transactive memory | Transsaccadic memory | Verbal memory  | Visual memory  | Visuospatial memory  | Working memory  |
Aspects of memory
Childhood amnesia | Cryptomnesia |Cued recall | Eye-witness testimony | Memory and emotion | Forgetting |Forgetting curve | Free recall | Levels-of-processing effect | Memory consolidation |Memory decay | Memory distrust syndrome |Memory inhibition | Memory and smell | Memory for the future | Memory loss | Memory optimization | Memory trace | Mnemonic | Memory biases  | Modality effect | Tip of the tongue | Lethologica | Memory loss |Priming | Primacy effect | Reconstruction | Proactive interference | Prompting | Recency effect | Recall (learning) | Recognition (learning) | Reminiscence | Retention | Retroactive interference | Serial position effect | Serial recall | Source amnesia |
Memory theory
Atkinson-Shiffrin | Baddeley | CLARION | Decay theory | Dual-coding theory | Interference theory |Memory consolidation | Memory encoding | Memory-prediction framework | Forgetting | Recall | Recognition |
Mnemonics
Method of loci | Mnemonic room system | Mnemonic dominic system | Mnemonic learning | Mnemonic link system |Mnemonic major system | Mnemonic peg system | [[]] |[[]] |
Neuroanatomy of memory
Amygdala | Hippocampus | prefrontal cortex  | Neurobiology of working memory | Neurophysiology of memory | Rhinal cortex | Synapses |[[]] |
Neurochemistry of memory
Glutamatergic system  | of short term memory | [[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] |
Developmental aspects of memory
Prenatal memory | |Childhood memory | Memory and aging | [[]] | [[]] |
Memory in clinical settings
Alcohol amnestic disorder | Amnesia | Dissociative fugue | False memory syndrome | False memory | Hyperthymesia | Memory and aging | Memory disorders | Memory distrust syndrome  Repressed memory  Traumatic memory |
Retention measures
Benton | CAMPROMPT | Implicit memory testing | Indirect tests of memory | MAS | Memory tests for children | MERMER | Rey-15 | Rivermead | TOMM | Wechsler | WMT | WRAML2 |
Treating memory problems
CBT | EMDR | Psychotherapy | Recovered memory therapy |Reminiscence therapy | Memory clinic | Memory training | Rewind technique |
Prominant workers in memory|-
Baddeley | Broadbent |Ebbinghaus  | Kandel |McGaugh | Schacter  | Treisman | Tulving  |
Philosophy and historical views of memory
Aristotle | [[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |
Miscellaneous
Journals | Learning, Memory, and Cognition |Journal of Memory and Language |Memory |Memory and Cognition | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |
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