There have been many studies and discussions about individuals who claim to have eidetic or photographic memories. Although it has been shown that some persons may have unusual powers of recall there still remains skepticism.
Imagine having the ability of perfect recall. Such ability is considered having an eidetic memory, generally referred as photographic memory. Some individuals with such ability are often able to recall in perfect details of images, sounds and/or objects with precise precision.
What perfect recall covers?
Recall can cover a variety of aspects with which humans are familiar. These are not generally limited to visual things. Some persons only after once reading a book are able to quote passages from it and say which pages they are on. Others will be able to visit a historic site like the Governor’s mansion in Colonial Williamsburg, Va. and do an authentic sketch of it.
Auditory ability may be manifested by some. Often these individuals can follow complex instructions recalling exactly what needs to be done. Others may listen to a song and are able to sing it by mouthing the exact words with the same tune. Family and friends will be thrilled by these abilities and applaud them.
There are those who have a keen sense of touch. They can pass their hands over any surface and recall what it is. For instance, they have a canny ability to distinguish between various types of fabrics, be it cotton, polyester, and linen. This may not end here. They may tell you what length goes with which fabric.
Some characteristics go with taste and smell. These are by individuals best suitable for judging contests that involve these senses. For example these are essential to connoisseurs in trying to determine the best wines or liqueurs. Some outstanding chefs may have this ability when they put together one of their special entrees or desserts.
What influences recall?
Recall can be influenced by several factors. These may be the ability to recall events on a short term basis. Simply put this is when an event is fresh in a person’s memory – a duration factor. Another consideration may have to do with the circumstances surrounding an event. Was it for example a disaster? How frequently was a person exposed to the stimuli? Was the observation conscious? Or, was it considered essential? These are all things that are sure to influence memory.
Another factor that is of utmost importance is the use of mnemonic techniques. That is when a person is able to divide an idea or information into numerable elements. They do this to help them recall specific details, for example where a person was standing, walking, or wearing on a specific day and hour during 9/11 or when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Some experts doubt that there is such a thing like perfect recall. Although they concede that there are some individuals who are Autistic and those who suffer from Asperger syndrome demonstrate having a degree of eidetic or photographic memory. These savants show spectacular abilities to recall details of some sort or another.
It was noted in the literature that some people may experience “sporadic eidetic memory” especially after an incident that has made a tremendous impact in their lives. After they may deceive themselves into thinking that they have photographic memories.
A fact often proved but there is still skepticism
A fact often proved is a person remembers what he understands. It therefore follows if you understand an event you will be likely to recall it. Marvin Minsky’s The Society of Mind (1988) views eidetic memory as an “unfounded myth.” A.R. Luria a famous Russian neuropsychologist in Mind of a Mnemonist (1968) reveals after tests that it is possible that a subject will be able to memorize lengthy lists of random words recalling them in later years. Such a person is often considered a prodigy.
Despite claims and counter claims, there are those who believe that perfect recall is impossible. Others may say it is not necessarily perfect recall but it comes close to it.