How To Get A Photographic Memory So You Remember Everything

Photo: Dean Drobot, Getty Images via Canva
photographic memory

The topic of having a photographic memory is debatable. Some people believe it is totally possible, while others see it as nothing more than a hoax.

One thing everyone can agree on is that the ability to memorize important information with minimal exposure is very beneficial.

What is a photographic memory?

"Photographic memory" is used to describe someone who can remember things they have seen in extreme detail. It implies that a person can take a mental photograph to call on when needed.

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In 1970, Harvard scientist Charles Stromeyer III published a paper about a student named Elizabeth who was believed to have had a photographic memory.

Each of her eyes was shown a separate pattern containing 10,000 random dots a day apart. Elizabeth was able to join the two patterns together, resulting in a three-dimensional image.

In a suspicious turn of events, Stromeyer ended up marrying his student and her alleged photographic memory was never tested again. This led people to believe it was a hoax.

Most people have the advantage of an eidetic memory to some degree. This means they are able to see an image or object in their mind seconds after turning away from it.

The recall is far from perfect, though. Like photographic memory, it is based on visualization.

The difference is that a truly photographic memory will store exact accurate information indefinitely. A quick and easy eidetic memory test can confirm your remembrance capabilities.

Because there is always a valid explanation when people claim to have photographic memories, many attribute these assertions to attention-seeking deceptions.

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3 Ways To Develop A Photographic Memory

Your capability to recollect people, places, and data is not based on just one kind of memory. The art of memory takes on several forms.

Generally, though there is still much to learn, scientists believe there are four memory stages that go in the following order: sensory memory, working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memories.

But for those that do believe people can develop a photographic memory, the good news is that there are ways to improve your memory skills and enhance your ability to recall images and information.

1. The Method of Loci

This memory technique involves putting information in specific places in your mind for memory storage. It is referred to as the memory palace technique.

The Method of Loci practice dates back to the Roman Empire when Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote a De Orator, telling the story of a poet, Simonides.

The story stems from a supposed ceiling collapse where families were unable to identify their loved ones. Cicero allegedly assisted by recalling where each guest was seated in relation to him.

This practice, also called the journey method, uses locations to aid memory. You associate items with places you are familiar with. This could be a physical place or a part of your body.

For instance, to remember items on a grocery list, you would associate them with the places they belong such as the cabinet, the refrigerator, and so on. To recall, you imagine the locations, thereby recalling the items.

2. The Memory Peg

Like the Method of Loci, the Memory Peg uses things you are already familiar with to ensure details are imprinted in your mind. This time, you use numerical rhymes called memory pegs to remember.

The idea is to attach a word to a rhyming number. For example, one to gun, or two to zoo, and so forth. Memory pegs can be used in non-numeric ways as well.

In those cases, you might associate alligators with the letter “A” or bears with the letter “B” or even “F” for the front door. You can also use mnemonic sounds such as associating New Delhi with the word “deli.”

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3. The Military Method

The military is always looking for ways to advance their knowledge through science. To that end, they train operatives to have a photographic memory.

The Military Method takes at least a month to finish and requires consistent daily practice. If a day is missed, you will need to restart. Here's how to do it:

1. Sit in a dark room without any windows. The room should be a place where you won’t be distracted, and you should place a lamp with a bright light near you.

2. Be sure you are in close enough proximity to the light to switch it on and off without moving from your seated position.

3. Take a piece of paper and cut a rectangular hole in it. Place it over the information you want to remember, only exposing a paragraph.

4. Adjust the distance from the book so that your eyes focus only on the words that are shown through the hole.

5. Turn off the light, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Flip the light on quickly then right back to the off position. This imprints what you just saw into your memory.

6. When the imprint begins to fade from your mind, repeat the process of flashing the light on and off quickly while focusing on the paragraph. Repeat this process until you remember every single word.

The Military Method takes time, patience and discipline, and it may be some time before you are successful. But practicing at least 15-20 minutes daily will give you significant improvements in your memory.

Whether you believe in photographic memory or not, there are ways to improve how you recall information.

Journalist and memory expert Joshua Foer proved this when he trained for and won the 2006 USA Memory Championship.

It all started when Joshua watched the prior year’s competitors memorize a deck of cards, strings of numbers and complex poems. He spent a year using tools like the Method of Loci and Memory Pegs to seek out a victory.

So, if you have a desire to improve your ability to remember pertinent data, give these three methods a try. Worst case scenario, you scratch improving your memory off your bucket list.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.