ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

People with extraordinary memory

Updated on August 11, 2013

Whether there is a such a thing as photographic memory or not depends on your definition of photographic memory. If you mean having a memory like a camera where you can see something for an instance and it gets stored in memory in such a way as to never forget it, then the answer is "not really" (with the possible exception of few isolated cases mentioned later). However, there are other instances where extra-ordinary memory comes close to being photographic. This article will look at some of these cases.

But first, let's see what others have to say about photographic memory...

  • says "This seems like as good an opportunity as any to clear up the greatest enduring myth about human memory. Lots of people claim to have a photographic memory, but nobody actually does."
  • says "photographic memory in the popular sense is probably a myth".

People With Extra-Ordinary Memory

Kenneth Higbee, author of Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It writes that "most of what people attribute to a photographic memory is merely the powerful application of learned memory techniques."

There are people with extra-ordinary memory abilities. But Higbee writes that "All these performances have been attributed by researchers, and by the performers themselves, to the use of learned mnemonics, interest, and practice more than to innate abilities."

Some examples that Higbee gives are ...

  • a couple of college students who can repeat a string of 70-plus digits of numbers after hearing it once.
  • a waiter that can hold 19 complete diner orders in his head.
  • a college student who can square six-digit numbers in his head.
  • and a man who has exceptional memory for varied types of information including numbers, prose, names and faces.


Of course, people are born with different levels of memory abilities. And there are some few exceptional individual who do posses exceptional innate memory abilities.

One such person is a Russian newspaper reporter named Shereshevskii. When presented with a sequence of 70 words or numbers, he can recall them forward and backwards. When tested again 15 to 16 years later, he was still able to recall the words.

The case of Shereshevskii comes very close to being a photographic memory. But it is still not photographic because he is not able to take snapshot recording of a picture. He had to study the material that he needed to memorize. It takes him 40 seconds in order to memorize 20 digits. To memorize 50 digits, he needed 2 to 3 minutes.

Shereshevskii was diagnosed with synaesthesia in which simulation of one sense like hearing would invoke sensation of another sense such as color. The synaesthesia condition aided his ability to remember.

Yet this inborn ability can have its drawbacks. Shereshevskii would have difficulty erasing un-needed information. Every time he read words, it brings up an image in his mind which clutter his thinking.


Sometimes not being able to forget is quite inconvenient, as Jill Price describes in an NPR interview. Due to a rare medical condition, Jill Price can recall every detail of her life for the past three decades. She writes more about it in her book "The Woman Who Can't Forget".

She is one of about twenty subjects positively diagnosed with the condition hyperthymesia.

Similarly, Aurelien can remember every day of his life as shown in the new documentary "The Boy Who Can't Forget".


Savants and individuals with autism may have extra-ordinary innate abilities and some can perform great memorization feats. Daniel Tammet is a high-functioning autistic savant who can memorize the mathematical constant PI to over 22 thousand digits. He recited the PI digits (without error) over the course of 5 hours for "PI day" on March 14, 2004.

He also has a form of synesthesia that enables him to see numbers visually with texture, shapes, and colors. This may be responsible for his facility to memorize numbers. Nevertheless, it would not be considered a photographic memory in the sense that it did take him many days to study and memorize this long string of numbers.

Eidetic memory

Another group of people that may have something close to photographic memory are people with eidetic memory. And some people use the term "eidetic memory" as synonymous to "photographic memory". Eidetic memory is defined as "a very strong visual afterimage that enables a person to duplicate a picture mentally and describe it in detail shortly after looking at it."[1] In terms of the number of people who have this, it is not more than 5% to 10% of children. Eidetic memory occurs less with age. For adults, one investigator guess that maybe as little as one in a thousand have it.

Of course, it is hard to distinguish true eidetic memory from regular visual memory.

There are several distinctions that make eidetic memory different from what most people think of as photographic memory.

  • Eidetic memories last only a few seconds and then fades.
  • Once image have faded, it can not be retrieved.
  • The memory can contain errors such as omission and additions.
  • Still requires viewing time of more than a split second to study the scene.

If you define photographic memory as the ability to retain the image accurately over long term, then no one has been able to shown this scientifically.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Suzanna Anderson 

      4 years ago

      i find it impossible to forget anything or anyone that has been part of my life, i'm now 54 years of age, i also do believe there is such a thing as a photographic memory.

    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I need to do some memory workouts too.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      So where do i fit in...I'm probably next to the people with memory gap disorders. Better start doing some memory workouts. I hope my brain does not overload.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)