How does the eidetic memory work

eidetic phenomenon

The eidetic phenomenon describes a very strong, sometimes almost perfect visual memory, whereby the term photographic memory is incorrectly used, which is probably derived from the fact that numerous experiments by researchers (Urbantschitsch, 1907) have been carried out with standardized photographs with numerous objects. Eidetic can look at a picture for a few seconds and then answer detailed questions about it or also name the objects depicted on it. The number of remembered objects is up to fifty, beyond the usual 7 ± 2 objects, i.e. That is, eidetics remember many details of their visual impressions or can immerse themselves in them as in an inner image. After a few minutes this inner photo fades and you only remember the most important elements, but the details are no longer fully reproducible.

Some are skeptical of the phenomenon and train the eidetic abilities of some people with effective memory strategies, such as Loci method back, in which one mentally links what is to be memorized with places in a familiar way. In fact, the achievements of some memory artists resemble the eidetic memory capacities due to the combination of various mnemonic measures with which the memory ability can be substantially improved.

The eidetic memory is very rare and usually lasts up to several minutes, but for some people it can last much longer. Eidists report that it feels like the visual impression persists for this length of time, similar to what non-eidists consider Afterimage feel, but in eidetics the character resembles a kind of projection, d. That is, you see these images in front of you in every detail. Some skeptics also attribute the eidetic phenomenon to this phenomenon of the afterimage after looking at objects - which varies greatly from person to person and lasts for several seconds in some people.

This phenomenon was found at the beginning of the twentieth century Children and Adolescents still very common - this ability disappeared in almost all of them in the course of puberty, presumably with the reduction or reduction that took place at that time. Remodeling of the neuronal connections in the brain. At that time, just over half of all school children had an eidetic memory that had been investigated experimentally. Later studies from the middle of the last century onwards showed that only a negligibly small proportion of children actually had an eidetic memory. It is assumed that in children with language acquisition this form of memory is through linguistic or meaning-centered, i.e. that semantic memory is replaced.

Who ever in one Memory game competed against a child knows that their visual memory works better, which is due to the fact that a child's brain has about twice as many Synapses equipped like an adult's brain. The number of synapses decreases significantly with puberty, because the brain has now learned which synaptic connections work most effectively and which are no longer used. The unused connections are broken down by the brain. Which neurological principles who are responsible for the performance of eidetics in the brain is still unclear. On the one hand, deviations and changes in the brain of eidetics can hardly be represented or, as in autistic people, they are extremely different. When examining the brains of eidetics after their death, of course, there is no direct link to function, i. That is, the activation of the respective brain areas during the examinations. One hypothesis is that in an eidetic memory the connection between the two halves of the brain is less pronounced.

According to studies, today around 5-10% of the Toddlers an eidetic memory to some extent. This disappearance is also associated with the greater variety of stimuli to which children are exposed in the following decades. Presumably there is a connection to the phenomenon of Acceleration, which over the course of the twentieth century led to various changes in the development of late childhood and especially in pre-puberty.

Most eidetikers generally have a very good memory, so they have a significantly better memory than their fellow human beings not only for visual stimuli but also for those that are heard and felt. Some show psychological deviations, most of which can be classified as autistic. Often one also finds a proximity to strong synaesthetic sensations, i. that is, it finds one in those affected Multiple coding the perceived information instead, which of course clearly supports memory performance.

The adult human increasingly develops an information economy, i. In other words, instead of saving entire scenes with their details, he looks for the features that are meaningful to him and very quickly forgets the rest. Incidentally, you can Chess grandmaster Remember hundreds of parts that are characterized by certain significant features, but if you show these senseless positions of the figures, then their reproductive performance is no better than that of laypeople. Successful Chess player can therefore easily remember earlier games because they attach great importance to the positions of the figures and also think in terms of these patterns. See also Clustering.

Great apes Incidentally, they have an excellent photographic memory, because experiments by Matsuzawa (2009) and Inoue & Matsuzawa (2007) showed that adult humans need much longer to remember the arrangement of different digits on a screen than great apes. So the monkey's memory seems to be downright photographic.

Video: Chimpanzee doing a number experiment

Examples of unusual memory skills: British artist Stephen Wiltshire was able to draw a detailed panorama of the city after a 20-minute helicopter flight over New York. Solomon Shereshevsky was able to learn complex, nonsensical mathematical formulas in just a few minutes and reproduce these formulas for many years.

In 2019 the following report went through the media: A Japanese seller is said to have memorized around 1,300 credit card details using photographic memory during the payment process. The 34-year-old salesman worked in a shopping center, where he is said to have memorized the 16-digit credit card numbers, the security number and the expiry date during the payment process and later noted them in a notebook. The man then used the collected credit card data to pay for purchases on the Internet.


Matsuzawa, Tetsuro (2009). Symbolic representation of number in chimpanzees, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 19, 92-98
Inoue, Sana & Matsuzawa, Tetsuro (2007). Working memory of numerals in chimpanzees, Current Biology, 17 (23), 1004-1005.
Urbanchich, Viktor (1907). Via subjective visual visual images. Leipzig: Deuticke.

Link to the videos (09-02-07)

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