Photographic memory

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2350/is-there-such-a-thing-as-photographic-memory
While not as impressive as the experiments mentioned here. Whenever I memorize how to spell a word. When I recall it, it’s as if I had taken a photo of it

I thought the Elizabeth example cited had been largely discredited. The person studying her married her, and she refused to ever repeat the study.

I was under the impression that she was the only documented case of eidetic memory, and is, at best, questionable.

Extraordinary claims and all, I don’t think this exists.

Sorry if this sounds like a bit from an amateur comedian on open-mike night, but I’ve always been puzzled by the phenomenon of “boosting” recall with mnemonic devices-- typically, as the article mentions, associating each element with a familiar image or phrase.

To me, this just leads to the question of how the hell people trained in this technique remember all of those mnemonic “clues”. Blithely calling it a “trick” begs the question.

I have a fairly retentive memory, and spontaneously making idiosyncratic associations is part of this. But I think I would need an infinite regress of “clues” just to help me remember the first set of “clues” or “hints”.

Once something gets into my memory, it’s there forever. I simply remember things.

Having a great memory has its downside. Today I read a review of a book that sounded interesting, and remembered seeing it for sale in my library over a year ago. Damn!

I don’t think anyone is denying that some people have good memory. I’m just wondering why Cecil seemed so credulous of what is essentially anecdotal evidence of “photographic” memory.

The best evidence is a woman who was able to demonstrate this ability 40 years ago, and only in front of her husband, and refuses to do it for anyone else. The other report is a hundred year old report out of Russia, which again, seems to be reported by a single person, and seems to be just an example of a guy with extremely good memory, not photographic memory. If these were evidence being presented in favor of psychic abilities, we would rightfully laugh at it.

My quick search around seems to indicate that the idea of true photographic memory has been largely debunked.

One thing that’s certainly not possible is page-at-a-time reading. The claim goes that some people can simply glance at a page of a book, memorize the whole thing, and then go back and “read” the image of it from their memory at will. But even if the brain is capable of such a feat (dubious, but there’s a lot we don’t know about the brain), the eyes aren’t. We only have resolution good enough to read a typical book in a very small region near the center of our field of view. In order to read a page, we must scan that small spot systematically across the whole thing. Just a glance isn’t a long enough time to do that.

My son has an incredible memory. He won’t claim it’s photographic, but I’ve seen him pull off stunts that many people would claim is photographic.

He reads incredibly fast. His reading speed was measured at about 2000 words per minute. It looks like he’s slowly flipping through a book, but he’s actually reading it. And, if you ask him a question about the book, he can turn back to the page where the answer can be found. Many times, months after reading it.

He’ll tell you that he didn’t memorize the page number, but he knows where in the story that a particular thing occurred and will take an initial guess, read a bit, then determine whether he’s a bit too far ahead or not quite there yet in the story. To an outside observer, it looks like you’re asking about the story, and he takes the book and turns right to the page.

His secret is that he doesn’t clog his mind with such trivial such as “I need to check my fly before I go outside” or “I must remember to pick up my dry cleaning today” or where he put down his cellphone.

Apparently a lot of people have claimed to read thousands of words per minute with full comprehension, but apparently it never holds up to study. There is a World Championship of speedreading, and the winners manage between 1000-2000 per minute, but manage only 50% comprehension.