Eidetic (“Photographic”) Memory

“I only have to see something once, and it’s like a picture in my head that I can file away for if I need it later.”  –Tino

“He has a photogenic memory” — Bernadette

Imagine seeing a picture for a few seconds and then being able to describe almost every detail of that image later. People would commonly call this ability “photographic memory” which would mean that a person is able to take pictures with their eyes and store them within their mind. This is somewhat true. In the play Surely Goodness and Mercy Tino says “I only have to see something once, and it’s like a picture in my head that I can file away for if I need it later.” When shown an image for 30 seconds people like Tino can go as far as describing how many petals a flower has, and have reported “seeing” an image in their head. Nevertheless, their descriptions do contain errors and their accuracy can fade in as little as a few minutes making their memory eidetic rather than photographic; in fact scientists are currently saying that there may be no such thing as photographic memory.


Eidetic memory is the ability to recall images with clarity that borders actual photographic perception. The ability is found within a small portion of the population, and is considered to be something that people are naturally born with. Though people can definitely improve their memory, to be able to recall information in this fashion is very rare. It is more common among children than adults but they start to lose the ability after age of 6 as they begin to process information in other forms. Still, the ability is not necessarily linked with intelligence, and even if psychologists do not understand why children lose the ability they believe the loss of it may be useful. If humans were to remember everything within images they collect in their heads, it could be difficult to make it through the day. Nevertheless, Toni has a rare ability and the intelligence to use get the full use out of it.


Check out this video on eidetic memory, people with the ability and how to improve your own memory!



Adams, William Lee. "The Truth About Photographic Memory." Psychology Today. March 01, 2006. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200603/the-truth-about-photographic-memory.

"Does Photographic Memory Exist?" Scientific American. 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/i-developed-what-appears-to-be-a-ph/.

Hale, Tom. "Just 1% Of People Can Find The Hidden Letter In This Quiz." IFLScience. August 15, 2016. http://www.iflscience.com/brain/do-you-have-photographic-memory-take-quiz-and-find-out/.