Jump to content

Perfect memory - does it exist? And is it good for you?

Recommended Posts

Memory is a fascinating subject. When I think about it, a lot of my conversations with colleagues and friends touch upon in, and especially when it comes to learning languages. Think about the famous excuse - "My memory is no good, that's why I can't learn/progress in a language X". I am myself guilty of using (and abusing) it in daily situations. Oh, I forgot to buy tea - well, you know, my memory's kinda weak these days. What project did we work on two weeks ago? Hmm, really don't remember. I must be getting old.

People often say "Oh, I wish I had a better memory! Excellent memory!" I've always thought that people who have "photographic" memory are really lucky to have such an amazing skill at hand.

But I've changed my mind a bit after reading about Solomon Shereshevskii. I don't know if you heard about him - the man had a sort of perfect memory - he did not forget things.


Well, it turned out remembering everything is not as great as it sounds. I guess the brain has the forgetting setting switched on by default because it is useful for us - and there are things we are much better off not remembering.

What's your opinion? Do you think we are better off with a memory that keeps forgetting new words? Or should we try hard to improve our memory? And how do you judge if your (or someone else's memory) is "good" or "bad"? It seems that different people have different ideas about what it means to remember well.


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know elephants have perfect memory, but humans? Not so much.
However, I did hear of a person who only took a look at Manhatten only once and made a perfectly detailed painting of it based on what he saw back then.

Another person with perfect memory can be found in this video:
https://youtu.be/dM3_s0rKBVc?t=47s (no need to skip to a certain part, the link will take you to that guy for you.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi, well that depends on what you define as "perfect memory".  If you define it as remembering certain things quick enough for you to grasp them one after the other, then yeah I would say a large chunk of humans possess that, however if you were to define " perfect memory" as remembering everything quickly all the time, well from what I have seen most humans do not seem to possess that.  

But then again it does also depend on your daily routine.

I hope my reply makes sense. ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe you can train your memory and improving it, but in my situation... losing bits of memories and even forgetting words I use often is common.  All thanks to my neurological issue. I'm not sad though, because despite my huge memory issues I've managed to learn dutch :)  I will improve it soon, right after I get my MVV I will start working on it :)   I believe leaning languages is good for people like me, because I get my memory to work harder! 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Scribendi: World-Class Editing and Proofreading
  • 2 weeks later...

Oh well having a great memory would be awesome in many aspects of your life such working, relationships, gaming, daily interaction, etc that would make things so much easier but for a reason we don't, or we don't want to. Anyways I think if you try and try you can actually improve your memory with math tasks, learning languages and even playing games, having something in your mind is always a good sign I think.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Memory is indeed a fascinating topic. As a Psychology student during my university days we had fascinating discussions and experiments involving memory back then. One I can't forget is on the topic of "Recovered Memory".
Anyway, if my memory is correct. There is a reason why our brain cannot retain everything. There is a reason we 'forget' things. It is also a protective mechanism. As to the case of Solomon Shereshevskii, I can't helped but remember one of my favorite U.S. TV Cop dramas called "Unforgettable". The star detective there has the same capacity of NOT forgetting anything.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It depends on what we refer to as perfect memory; is it the memory that recalls everything that has ever happened to him or the memory that stores up so much information like those people we refer to as 'photographic memory owners' who see something for the first time and never forget it?

There are those with active and sharp memories and others who are forgetful but I doubt if there is anyone with a perfect memory unless we can define what a perfect memory is.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think perfect memory exists because of how memory works. But here's an interesting TED talks on elephant memory to help prove my point: 

Memories are built upon both intelligent and emotional components. Elephants remember because of the impressions strongly placed upon them. But unlike humans, whose mind is quick to twist things around and distort reality, elephants most likely recall the obvious truth.  People can witness the same event and recall entirely separate stories. Our perceptions and judgments alter what actually was and is.  For that reason, humans can't be like elephants. We certainly don't have their pure wisdom.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ассоrding tо phоtоgrаphiс mеmоry.оrg, lеss thаn 5% оf сhildrеn аrе bоrn with this аbility аnd mоst lоsе it аs thеy mаturе. Vаriоus tеsts hаvе bееn dоnе in аttеmpts tо prоvе оr disprоvе thе еxistеnсе оf еidеtiс mеmоry but thus fаr hаvе rеmаinеd ultimаtеly nеgаtivе tоwаrds thе еxistеnсе оf аn еidеtiс mеmоry.Thе shоrt аnswеr, sаdly, is nо: “phоtоgrаphiс mеmоry” is mоstly hypе аnd hypеrbоlе. 

Studiеs соnduсtеd оn еidеtiс mеmоry—thе mеdiсаl tеrm fоr а supеr-ассurаtе mеmоry, аnd thе еxаminеd phеnоmеnоn сlоsеst tо whаt pоpulаr сulturе саlls phоtоgrаphiс mеmоry hаvе vаriеd in thеir diаgnоsеs оf sаvаnts likе Stеphеn Wiltshirе, whоsе fеаts оf аppliеd mеmоrizаtiоn inсludе drаwing еntirе сity skylinеs unаssistеd аftеr а briеf hеliсоptеr ridе аbоvе thеm.

 It аppеаrs thаt sоmе pеоplе bеliеvе thеy hаvе phоtоgrаphiс mеmоry, but gооd sоurсеs sаy thаt nо оnе саn rеmеmbеr еvеrything

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love to read about memory and how the brain compartmentalizes things so efficiently. I remember reading about a man who could not recognize faces in the Boston area. That was just not something that he could do. His brain would just not file away that information. It would get "deleted" as soon as the person was gone. Imagine living a life where everyone you looked at was a stranger? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

We all have perfect memory or the mechanism to use perfect memory and to remember everything. We do not know how to use it but we have it. Actually we even use it. We remember everything we see in our life. The problem is to remember something. the memory is there but we cannot find it. I have read a book called Perfect Memory by Tony Buzan. He wrote about Mind Mapping techniques and I can tell you it is amazing. I am able to remember a 16 digit number in 3 minutes
no sweat. It is not hard and everybody can do it you just need the system.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Solomon Shereshevskii's case was definitely intriguing. Even as a child, he showed the symptoms of synesthesia, it's a condition wherein a person experiences associations between different sensory modes. For example, he might hear a certain sound like a radio announcer, and he might experience that with colours like red or blue.

Aside from that, it's also said that he has mastered the method of loci, wherein a person uses arranged locations and clips in new information. It's difficult to prove though whether Solomon has truly mastered this method or he has innate abilities that make him able to memorise long series of numbers and words.

Some experts have tried replicating the amazing memorisation abilities of Solomon though. One professor trained his college students using a mnemonic system. And they were actually able to equal Solomon's time in memorising of three minutes.

But Solomon has other capabilities that the students weren't able to replicate. He was able to dictate the numbers in reverse and in diagonal as well. Amazing, right? And his ability to even recall the numbers years and years later, that's another amazing thing.

For me, I would love to have that memorisation ability. There's this other condition called "hyperthymesia" and it means someone can recall past experiences in detail even 10 years later. That's the type of memory that I probably wouldn't want... I'd feel extremely guilty, traumatised and scared. But that's another topic.

If I am able to memorise things, numbers and words in detail, I doubt that I would fail any subject in school. Lol. However, it's important to note that Solomon has had issues with logic. For instance, he cannot recognise patterns in long string of numbers. So that's another downside of his condition. 

In a sense, it's nature's way of balancing things. We cannot have it all, I guess. Even the smartest people like Einstein and Edison has had their own weaknesses. That's not to say that we cannot be successful, we only have to make use of whatever skills we have. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Content

    • By Floren
      Online Languages ® Discord is a dedicated server hosting interactive language-related activities: learning, teaching, studying, translating and exchanging. We Offer: English, French, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, Italian, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Polish, Chinese  and much more.. 
      Hope you enjoy being a part of our highly active community!
      To join us you should follow these steps :
      1-You should install discord from the play store. 
      2-Then you sign up on discord .
      3-You will find symbol + with green color in the left side you click on that and you choose the last option 'join the a server. then you paste the link 

    • By Majul
      Online French courses OUT !
      From 2€/hour : book now your group / private lessons : on http://cours.demarchefle.com   Bonjour / Hello everyone,
      We are launching our new website providing French courses !
      Any student interested can click on the link above to have more information about how to process, what methodology we use, how and when you can take courses, etc.
      We are two native French teachers and we would like to give a maximum of students the opportunity to learn French online at a cheap price, after numerous talks with our foreign students these past years.
      We hope to see you soon !
      À bientôt.
    • By EvrSnc
      Hello linguaholics!
      I'm conducting a survey on Chinese language learners, to understand how we discover new words in the language.
      Your responses would really be invaluable to my Master thesis, which is centered around Chinese vocabulary learning and it's aimed at the creation of a prototype
      The survey shouldn't take more than 5-6 minutes of your time and it's completely anonymous.
      If you have any comments or want to share your personal experience on discovering new vocabulary, we can also have a discussion here of course!
    • By Samin
      Hi, I would love to improve my English. If you can teach me please don’t hesitate to message me as I hope I can help you with persian too.
    • By Engvarta
      The platform that comes to my mind when we talk about English fluency application is ENGVARTA & DUOLINGO. There are a large number of platforms that are there today. But I would suggest to you something that I’ve personally used and turned out to be effective.
      After using this app, one thing that I realized was “ I knew how to speak, but hesitated and never spoke.”
      What if I say, you have 15 minutes and the only thing you have to do is speak in English on a topic. You will hesitate. You will find a lack of words.
      English experts at Engvarta pushes you to the extent where there is no option left but only to Speak in English. They correct us wherever we make any mistake.
      What do you get :
      One to one conversation with English experts. Recording for correcting mistakes. Free vocabulary in your mails daily. A topic of your interest that you can speak on. The best part about it is, you can stay in your own comfort of your house and without giving too many details about yourself. You connect with the Expert.
      The next app is Duolingo
      Duolingo is one free application where you can learn English. It will help you with vocabulary and pronunciation. It is very easy to use and helps you to test yourself. It also gives the pictorial form of words.
  • Create New...