You probably have photographic memory

December 12, 2008 | By | Reply More

To what extent do we have “photographic memory?”  In an experiment described by Discover Magazine,

researchers showed 14 people nearly 3,000 images (at three seconds per image) and then immediately asked the subjects to point out what they had seen. They tested participants’ memories in comparisons of increasing difficulty. First, subjects were shown two completely novel objects (a cup and a plate, for example). Next, they were shown exemplars of an object (two different cups). They were last shown objects differing in state only (identical cups, one half-filled). Researchers anticipated a success rate of slightly more than 50 percent. Instead, the results, published in September in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [pdf], showed an astounding performance overall: 92 percent on the easiest comparisons; 88 percent on those of middle difficulty; and 87 percent on the hardest. One test subject scored 98 percent.

According to the researchers, the observers

did not know during the study session which items of the 2,500 would be tested afterward, nor what they would be tested against. Thus, any strategic encoding of a specific detail that would distinguish between the item and the foil was not possible. To perform well on average in both the exemplar and the state conditions, observers would have to encode many specific details from each object.

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Category: Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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