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Photographic memory, what exactly does that mean?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by TonyD, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    i always hear someone say things like, "he has a photographic memory".

    when i hear that i think that someone can look at something and remember exactly what he saw in precise detail.
    so if that is true, why arent people with PM the smartest people on earth.
    they can remember anything they look at,
    so they should know everything, right?
     
  2. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    I think you're confusing mere data with intelligence. One also needs to make effective use of what he knows to be considered "smart". For example, no one would say an "idiot savant" who can memorize the entire phone book is "smart".
     
  3. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    In general, it means someone with a really good memory.

    However, there are a few people in the world who literally have a photographic memory, also known as eidetic memory. The way to test for it is to show a person a sheet with hundreds of dots, and have them look at it for about a minute. Then show him another sheet, which if layered on top of the first one, would create a distinct object. If the person has a photographic memory, he will be able to mentally layer the two images and tell you what the object is.

    As you mentioned, it doesn't often translate into usable intelligence. Being able to memorize an equation or other data doesn't necessarily mean you can put the info to use.
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Yeah, having instant access to data is great, but if you don't know how to crunch the data, it might not be of great use to the person to accomplish a goal or task.
     
  5. andrew markworthy

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    What has been said about photographic/eidetic memory is correct but it should be noted that it is extremely rare.

    Within normal bounds of memory skills, memory is, with respect to the previous contributors to this thread, pretty well correlated with intelligence. E.g. your digit span (maximum length of random number sequence you can reliably remember) is strongly correlated with IQ test score. Similarly, whilst nearly everyone can recall the main theme of a picture or story, the number of extra details that can be recalled is correlated with intelligence.

    A few years ago, psychologists produced evidence that all of us are capable of at least some photographic memories called 'flashbulb memories'. The argument was that all of us can remember some key events in our lives with an almost surreal clarity. Various theories (including an ingenious idea that different neurotransmitters were reserved for just such memories) were proposed. However, a noted expert in the area then pointed out that these supposedly hyper-accurate memories could be flawed. E.g. the said expert had a flashbulb memory of hearing a radio announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor - and it interrupted the commentary on a major league baseball game ...
     
  6. Michael Warner

    Michael Warner Supporting Actor

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    I've never quite understood what photographic memory means exactly. I have a very visually oriented memory but I don't know if that counts as photographic. Here's an example -- yesterday I had to go to the grocery store but I forgot to bring the list I had made earlier in the morning. In trying to recall the list I didn't remember each individual item like pieces of data. Instead I pictured the list as a whole -- the color of the paper, the written items, the color of the ink, the style of handwriting -- and scanned it for the information I needed even mentally flipping it over for the second half of the list. I suppose that's a form of photographic memory but for me to be able to do it the information has to be in context -- I don't think I could do random dots on paper. And yes, I got everything on my list.[​IMG]
     
  7. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Took me a looooong while to get that one. Yikes.

    --
    H
     
  8. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

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    Michael, it might not be perfect, but that's the basic idea of what a photographic memory is. Your brain essentially "photographs" the material in front of you to where you can recall it with near perfect clarity from a visual perspective. So you're not really remembering the sequence of words so much as recalling a visual image of the material in question and can then just "read" the page from memory only, exactly like you described.
     
  9. WillG

    WillG Producer

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    I guess this is somewhat related. I want to know about the people who can multiply any two numbers you give them instantaneously. There was a guy in my high school who could do that and it blew me away. How does his brain work like a calculator? You would think even for math geniuses it would take a second or two to work the numbers.
     
  10. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    "Rainman"
     
  11. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

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    It took me a while too and then I remembered there's no MLB in December. Doh!
     
  12. andrew markworthy

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    Enjoy the movie by all means, but please don't take it as an accurate portrayal of what most folks with Autism Spectrum Disorder are like.
     
  13. Mike Wladyka

    Mike Wladyka Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, I used to be able to do that with 3 digit numbers. But like Andrew stated if you don't practice it, it goes away fairly quickly. They way I used to do it was like this: (for 2 digit numbers)

    68 times 79 =

    (60 + 8) * (70 + 9) = 4200 + 560 + 540 + 72 = 5372

    combine that breakdown with adding from left to right, instead of right to left as we were taught, it makes for some speedy multiplying. Of course, the calculator and beer makes loosing that skill easy.

    On topic,

    I always equated photographic memory to somebody learning by visuals. For instance, I never took notes in my classes, even in college, because I could just watch what the teacher wrote on the board and remember it. Some people that I knew could hear stuff and remember it, sort of like an audio-graphic memory. People always thought I was weird because when I tried to remember something I would always be like "it is in the bottom left of the board" and then I would remember the piece of data I was looking for.
     
  14. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    I'm kinda like Michael........inasmuch as I also often find myself forgetting the list for something but can recall the list itself in my mind by simply visualizing and somehow recalling things down to even the mispelling of the one who made the list. Detailed recall has always been a tremendous asset to me.....
    When in high school (mid 60's), it was said I had a "photographic memory"; finding I had a detailed recall of not only something I read but also of something someone else read out loud.
    Later in college, (pathology) it was pretty much the same way.....and I always had my pick of lab partners (yes the pretty ones) since I was considered "smart" and would often be forced to pull someone through a tough course.

    The problem I had with all that was you take it for granted and realize you can get by without studying, therefore I never developed study habits.... which I believe is where your mind begins to comprehend what you have read.
    Now in my mid 50's, I still forget the grocery lists sometimes but when I do, I just buy what I want and the kids will have to eat what I get!!!!
     
  15. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    This is what I can do. My brain is extremely audio-oriented, but unfortunately it seems to work best at recalling obscure dialogue in movies. I wish I could make this useful...
     
  16. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Ever know someone with a crazy phone number memory? I know such a guy, who must have hundreds of numbers at his disposal without the use of a PDA or cell phone log. He also retains phone numbers from decades ago.
     
  17. Joseph S

    Joseph S Cinematographer

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    Reading a bio of Lenin was pretty frustrating some time ago. They couldn't stress the fact often enough that had just had to glance at the pages to know everything that was on them, while I was taking forever. [​IMG]
     

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