A friend of mine who I have known since high school has often quoted actual dates on which events occurred a long time ago. Much of the time, I haven’t had a way to disprove him, but on several occasions I was able to confirm that he had stunning recall. After watching the following video from a 60 Minutes show, I emailed Mike, urging him to take a look.
The people featured in this 60 Minutes two-part video easily remember non-emotional ordinary events from throughout their lives down to the actual dates on which those events occurred. If you’re like me, you’ll be somewhat suspicious of the idea that people can remember long-ago events of their lives so well. If so, watch the video–it will leave you shaking your head unless you have this ability yourself.
This extreme memory is a stunning phenomena. Check out the researcher’s statement at about the 10-minute mark of the video that these folks are correct 99% of the time that they offer these detailed responses. Until watching this show, however, I had assumed that the ability to forget would be essential to good mental health. Based on the appearance of the superior memory subjects, that doesn’t appear to be true (though most of the subjects are not involved in long-term romantic relationships). These subjects have amazing recall without having any struggle with “cluttered” minds.
I definitely don’t have “superior autobiographical memory.” I don’t need all of superior autobiographical capability, but I wish I had somewhat better recollection.
James McGaugh, Ph.D.- University of California at Irvine, has studied these ultra-memory folks and will be discussing his findings at a Psychology Colloquium on Monday, December 5, 4:00 PM, Wilson 214 at Washington University. McGaugh’s team has found (video, Part II at the 2 minute mark) that people with superior autobiographical memory had larger (almost twice as large as expected) temporal lobes and caudate nuclei (the latter of which has been associated with OCD). See Video II at the 3-minute mark for more on the OCD angle.
Category: Psychology Cognition