I was always under the impression that photographic, aka eidetic memory (from the Greek word for "form"), was a genuine, realistic condition. It's referenced in pop-culture a lot. As a child in grade school, I was always envious of the people somewhere out there that had this condition because I always wanted it for my math, spelling, history, geography, etc. tests.

However, this idealized "photographic" memory has seem more and more of a myth. Sure, some are born with a keen sense of memory than others, but they aren't just born with a photographic memory, but that this is something that they have to train their brains to do (I'm not sure if their memory/brain exercises will ever reach the degree of "photographic" -- does anyone know)? Anyway, is this a correct realization? Or does photographic/eidetic memory actually exist from birth?

Or is photographic memory only achieveable through memory exercises such as the "memory palace"?

I know that there is the condition of hyperthmesia, where individuals are able to recall vivid details from their own personal life, but that's not quite the same as seeing thousands of numbers and memorizing the order. But is hyperthemsia a real condition too?

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


Yes, both eidetic memory and hyperthemsia exist. And photographic memory has never been proven to exist. But they aren't what pop culture advertises them as.

Hyperthemsia first. It is the ability of a person to remember extremely detailed events from most of their life. But it is of limited use. It is an extremely self centered memory condition. Most people can only remember in great detail events that are important to them. Other things they they encountered along the way, they won't remember any better than the rest of us. And they are just as susceptible to false memories as the average person. Given a date they can generally give very detailed descriptions of personally important memories from that date.


Eidetic memory is the ability to look at an object once and remember everything about it for a short duration afterwards. A person with eidetic memory can glance at a long paragraph for a handful of seconds, then close his/her eyes, and, using the brain's ability to remember the image just seen, read it word for word back to you. Five minutes later mistakes will be made in the recall. 30 minutes later he/she will be able to give an extremely detailed summary of the paragraph. Very few can reproduce it perfectly after a few hours. About 2 to 10 percent of children below the age of 12 have this ability and it gradually fades away as they get older. Very few adults claim to have it. This is a short term memory ability. There are no proven cases of someone with a long term eidetic memory.


Photographic memory is defined as the ability to read text and reproduce it later without the imagery that eidetic memory has. If there are people with this ability, they aren't discussing it openly. Since there are no verifiable cases of this existing, there is no need to discuss it further.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.