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  1. Active recall
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  24. Encoding
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  26. Episodic memory
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  32. False memory
  33. False Memory Syndrome Foundation
  34. Flashbulb memory
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  38. Hindsight bias
  39. HM
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  41. Hyperthymesia
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  45. Korsakoff's syndrome
  46. Lacunar amnesia
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  52. Lost in the mall technique
  53. Memory
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  56. Memory consolidation
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  96. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two
  97. Tip of the tongue
  98. Visual memory
  99. Visual short term memory
  100. Visuospatial sketchpad
  101. VTrain
  102. Working memory


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Eidetic memory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Eidetic memory, photographic memory, or total recall, is the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with great accuracy and in seemingly unlimited volume. The word eidetic (pronounced: /aɪˈdɛtɪk/) comes from the Greek word είδος (eidos), which means "image" or "form".

Many famous artists and composers, like Claude Monet[1] and Mozart, may have had eidetic memory. However, 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 time 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. [citation needed]

People with eidetic memory

  • The 10th century monk John of Gorze is speculated to have had eidetic memory.[citation needed]
  • Henri Poincaré had eidetic memory.[2]
  • Dr. James William Monroe had the ability then known as Epidetectorial Memory, only present in one person in every 500. Here, the brain is able to retain and recall images it has captured for the duration of its functional ability. When exposed to an arbitrary trigger, the brain can then recall such images with an astonishing accuracy and presence, albeit stripped of any extraneous context. A similar phenomenon is known in modern parlance as déja vu.
  • Stephen Wiltshire, MBE, is a prodigious savant[3], capable of drawing the entire skyline of a city after a single glance[4].
  • Mozart probably had eidetic memory especially suited for composers. There is a famous story about Mozart demonstrating his eidetic memory at the age of 14. At the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week in Rome, Gregorio Allegri's Miserere would be performed. The notes to the Miserere were kept secret under pain of excommunication. On Holy Tuesday, Mozart and his father attended the Papal Mass at the Sistine Chapel. Upon returning to their room, Mozart transcribed the music which had been kept secret for a century[5]. (This is the popular version of that incident. Other sources have him at the Vatican not once but twice (see also Allegri). That would make the event much less a miracle since Mozart was already familiar with difficult composing techniques at that age. He would have recognized and memorized the quite simple harmonic and formal patterns of the Miserere at the first performance and would have used the second one to correct the details.) Other musicians and composers with perfect pitch can be found in Category:People with absolute pitch.
  • Kim Peek is a savant with eidetic memory and developmental disabilities, resulting from congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man.
  • Nikola Tesla had eidetic memory.[6]
  • Derren Brown supposedly has eidetic memory to help imitate psychic phenomenon.
  • Author Robert E. Howard often surprised friends by being able to recite great sections of poetry from memory after only one or two readings
  • Professional gin rummy and poker player, the late Stu Ungar, was said to have had eidetic memory. He was able to keep track of every card in a six-deck blackjack shoe. In 1977 he was bet $100,000 by Bob Stupak, an owner and designer of casinos, that he could not count down the last three decks in a six deck shoe. Ungar won the bet.


Dr. Marvin Minsky, in his book The Society of Mind, was unable to verify claims of eidetic memory (see sections 15.3 & 15.6) 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 several studies. Charles Stromeyer studied a woman named Elizabeth who could recall poetry written in a foreign language that she did not understand years after she had first seen the poem.

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. But with today's knowledge, it is possible that he used memory techniques too. See his article for further information about his methods. He might have been a savant like Peek.

Memory records

The Guinness Book of 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 have nothing to do with eidetic memory and can be duplicated using mental images and the "method of loci".

Some autistic individuals display extraordinary memory, as well as those with similar conditions like Asperger's syndrome. Autistic savants are a rarity but they, in particular, show signs of spectacular memory.

Synesthesia has also been credited as an enhancement of auditory memory, but only for information that triggers a synesthetic reaction. However, some synesthetics 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.

Eidetic memory in fiction

This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.
Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the talk page for details.


  • In many books of the fiction genre, characters have extraordinary memories, usually eidetic in nature. For example, Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code can solve anagrams by only looking at them once, then memorizing the words he has seen, and 'unscrambling' the letters in his head. In Digital Fortess, also by Dan Brown, the character David Becker has an eidetic memory geared toward his linguistic abilities.
  • The short story Sucker Bait by Isaac Asimov features the character of Mark Annuncio, who has been trained from a young age to develop an eidetic memory and find correlations between seemingly unrelated pieces of data by absorbing as much knowledge as possible. Another Asimov story, "Lest We Remember," features a man named John Heath who gains perfect memory recollection after having a new, experimental drug tested on him.
  • Cotton Malone, the main character of "The Templar Legacy" by Steve Berry has an eidetic memory.
  • Max Jones, the title character of Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starman Jones, uses his eidetic memory to navigate his ship home following the loss of the ship's astrogation tables.
  • The narrator in Will Self's novel My Idea of Fun (1993) has an eidetic memory.
  • Severian, the narrator of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun has an eidetic memory, though this is often intentionally misleading; for example, he describes the tower he grew up in without ever realizing it is the remains of an ancient spaceship.
  • Barbara Gordon, a fictional character in DC Comics, has eidetic memory, which she puts to use as the information broker Oracle.[citation needed]
  • Bart Allen, a fictional character in DC Comics and the current Flash, has eidetic memory. When he became the second Kid Flash, he read the entire San Francisco Public Library.
  • Betty Brant, supporting character in the Spider-Man comics, has photographic memory, which she reveals while under oath in She-Hulk #4 (vol 1., August 2004)
  • Lesley and Gordon in the book A Cage of Butterflies by Brian Caswell. Their eidetic memory allows them to play chess without a chessboard.
  • Mentats in the Dune series by Frank Herbert are individuals who have undergone extensive training to have minds equivalent to super computers. Their usefulness is founded in the fact that the proscriptions of the [Butlerian Jihad] prohibit "machines in the likness of a man's mind", I.E. computers.
  • Winter, a character in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, has a perfect memory (though considering the numerous alien species in the Star Wars galaxy, some of whom look nearly identical to human beings, it is possible that Winter's ability is something different).
  • In Chaim Potok's novel, The Chosen, Danny Saunders has a photographic memory and is able to memorize The Talmud and novels like Ivanhoe.
  • Riane, the prophesied redeemer known as the Dar Sala-at in the Pearl Saga written by Eric Van Lustbader possesses an immersive eidetic memory. This is revealed slowly as the character recovers from amnesia. The memory is progressively revealed, as a literary device for both character and plot development.
  • Sage, a member of the X-men has an eidetic memory as well as other powers.
  • Ivan Efremov in his novel Razor's Edge used the word «eidetica» as an ability to a deliberate dreams, when man dreams in full details about something that is known to him only as told by friends, read in books or seen in pictures. In this novel such capability to see such panoramic color images appears in one of the novel characters after he was contused in time of Great Patriotic War. Later on he arrives in Moscow, USSR to ask the doctors explain this symptom. While healed he sees an even more detailed dream, but after he loses his unique ability.
  • Jennifer "Cam" Jansen - The female protaganist of David A. Adler's Cam Jansen children mystery novels. Cam has a photographic memory, using it to her advantage when solving crimes. Cam, short for Camera, was appropriately nicknamed due to her idiosyncracy of saying "Click" every time she takes a "picture" of a scene in her head (using her photographic memory).


  • In the movie "Silence of the Lambs", the character Dr. Hannibal has eidetic memory. He draws by memory perfectly detailed landscapes and a portrait of character Clarice.
  • In the movie Hackers, "Lord Nikon" claims to have a photographic memory (His handle Nikon refers to the camera company).
  • In the movie The Bourne Identity, the main character Jason Bourne glances at a map before wildly taking off through the streets, seemingly knowledgeable of exactly where he's going. Later, in a restaurant he discusses his instant awareness of all license plate numbers of cars parked outside.


  • Adrian Monk from Monk, and Shawn Spencer, from the TV series Psych, have eidetic memories.
  • Ingrid Third, the partner of the title character in the TV show Fillmore! has photographic memory.
  • Spencer Reid, a fictional FBI agent character in the show Criminal Minds has eidetic memory.
  • Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, a fictional character in the TV show Prison Break, claims that he has photographic memory. But Charles "Haywire" Patoshik has eidetic memory.
  • Seven of Nine, a fictional character on Star Trek: Voyager, has eidetic memory due to being a former Borg drone.
  • Commander Susan Ivanova, a fictional character on Babylon 5, claimed to have eidetic memory. She recalled a once-heard Minbari phrase perfectly.
  • Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel possesses photographic memory.
  • Adam Rove, a character from the television show Joan of Arcadia, possesses eidetic memory.
  • Dr. Sam Beckett, the main character of Quantum Leap, is stated to have possessed a photographic (eidetic) memory in the episode "Catch A Falling Star".[citation needed]
  • Charlie, a waitress featured in the NBC series "Heroes" suddenly exhibits eidetic memory as a functional superpower.
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle indicates that he has photographic memory when he recalls every single item stolen from a home robbery after inadvertently abetting the thief in the episode "Block Party."
  • Jimmy Neutron from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, has photographic memory.
  • TJ Henderson from the Smart Guy tv show, has photographic memory.
  • Gibson Kafka, a bartender on the show Birds of Prey, has eidetic memory as his metahuman ability.
  • Minami Megumi from Tantei Gakuen Q uses her photographic memory to aid her in solving mysteries.
  • Edgar Stiles, from the television series 24, has a photographic memory.
  • Fox Mulder, from The X-Files has a self-proclaimed photographic memory (Episode 1-11 "Fire").
  • Luke Smith, from The Sarah Jane Adventures displays the ability to remember incredibly long number sequences.


  • In EVE Online, "Eidetic Memory" is a skill that can be trained to gain a higher memory attribute.

See also

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Autistic savant
  • Autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Hyperthymesia - a condition where the affected individual has a superior autobiographical memory
  • Mnemonic
  • Absolute pitch, also known as perfect pitch - the ability to differentiate pitches, recall tones in the exact note without aid, and name a certain note played in an instant


  1. ^ Monet painted from memory
  2. ^ Toulouse, E., 1910. Henri Poincaré. - (Source biography in French)
  3. ^ Dr. Darold Treffert, Extraordinary People documenting the Savant Syndrome
  4. ^ David Martin, Savants: Charting "islands of genius" CNN broadcast September 14, 2006.
  5. ^ Mozart's eidetic memory for music
  6. ^ Cheney, Margaret, "Tesla: Man Out of Time", 1979. ISBN
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