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Photographic Memory and Good Spelling

Updated on October 31, 2010

Some people naturally find spelling easy. They have what is know as a photographic memory for written words. When they see a word written they are impressed not only with its meaning but with its very shape. They see it in their minds' eye.

Although some professionals believe that photographic memory is a myth, there has also been evidence to show that photographic memory is a real phenomenon. A woman who was studied by Charles Stromeyer was capable of remembering poetry that had been written in a different language. Photographic memory is a rare element that is found in less than 10% of the population.

Other people just as naturally have no visual or photographic memory of this sort, although they may have a wonderful memory for the sound of a spoken word and perhaps quick and fine perception of a word's inner meaning. To such people spelling errors will be all too easy.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that mainly affects reading and spelling. Common features of dyslexia include spelling errors (‘nock’ for ‘knock’; ‘jerney’ for ‘journey’); mixing upper and lowercase letters in writing (for example: ‘numBers’), and confusing letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’. Dyslexia is caused by the poor photographic memory, or a kind of deficiency of photographic memory.

English is a most unkind language. So many of its words are not written at all as they are spoken. So many of its letters are silent, so many have sounds that vary from one word to another, and there are so many rules continually broken, that unless you have a strong photographic memory you are almost certain to make some spelling errors in English.

For instance, very often double consonants have the same sound as a single consonant. gh may have the same sound as g (ghastly), or c as ch (chaos), or t as th (thyme). The famous double consonant, ph is pronounced neither like a p nor an h, but like an f (Phyllis). The kind of double consonant that gives most trouble should perhaps be called the twin consonant, bitten, pepper. These words required a strong visual memory.

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      Claire Cheskin 2 years ago

      I have an eidetic memory for spelling. This can even extend to any long word,not necessarily from my first language, or even a language I know at all. I used this in my job (medical spelling). The weird bit is that I also have dyscalculia and attended remedial maths classes at school. I can hardly add up.

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      Jesse 3 years ago

      I've been the best speller in my class for my life and I unintentianally take pictures with my mind and when I get asked to spell a word it pops up immediately and I can spell it...

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      Jennifer 3 years ago

      I have this also. I can't memorize anything else very well at all, for for spelling, I can literally see most words in my head, so pull up the visual image when thinking how to spell something.

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      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I rely on photographic memory for spelling. So do my children. We pull up a visual image of the word. If I have ever seen a word written, even if it is just once in my life, I can generally remember it.

      My memory is not as impressive as a man I know who can accurately remember entire pages of text many years after he reads them.

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      Marcus 6 years ago

      As weird as it sounds I have a photographic memory and dyslexia. That's how I learned to read, I have phenological dyslexia that developed due to surroundings not genetics. I can read fine, until I come across a unmemorized word. Then it becomes painful to hear me read.