A photographic memory has been coveted by many a scholar and student, since its concept has been recognised. Having the ability to recall everything that we looked at, exactly as we saw it, for an extended period of time could be extremely beneficial in many circumstances. Disappointingly, however, a photographic memory has never been proven to actually exist. Even though they are many people with exceptional memories, there are no reported cases of somebody being able to remember everything they are exposed to in detail for very long.
An eidetic mind is as close as possible to having a photographic memory that we have been capable of developing. An ‘eidetiker’ is able to recall an image in perfect detail, after being exposed to it for a short period of time. After the object has been removed, the subjects still describe the image as if it is still directly in front of them instead of from their recollection. This means that the after-image is just as real for them as the actual object had been. The difference between an eidetic memory and what we think of as a photographic memory is that the image could not be recalled in this way indefinitely, but only for a short period of time after viewing it.
Visual stimuli is much easier to recall than experiences that affect our other senses, however, eidetic minds seem to be limited to children. It has been surmised that this is because a child perceives the world in a more visual manner, as a result of having a limit on their verbal communication. As adults we become able to put our thoughts into words, so it is no longer necessary for us to put as much emphasis on images and much of the detail and need to remember becomes lost.
Following the same path, an eidetic memory is associated with conditions that may affect an individual’s ability to verbally communicate. Autism is the main example of one of these that results in delayed language and limited communication skills. Individuals with autism find that their thoughts are made up of pictures instead of words and even as adults many of them retain this ability, and mould it to develop ways of communicating with other people.
Even though people with eidetic minds can recall images in great detail, sometimes these recollections might be faulty. This is because a true representation of the image may be impossible because of personal biases and interpretations. The image will be recalled exactly how it was seen by the observer, but not necessarily how it appeared.