People with photographic memories can recall sights or sounds that they experienced very briefly, often a long time after they experienced them. They can usually recall these sights and sounds in such exquisite detail that their minds almost seem like biological cameras, to the surprise of everyone around them. The technical term for a photographic memory is an ‘eidetic memory.’ People that are very good at remembering things that they’ve studied probably don’t have photographic memories. The actor who looks at a page of text and instantly remembers every line on the page doesn’t have a photographic memory unless he or she also remembers each and every smudge and crease on the page and can recall every aspect on the paper perfectly.
It should be noted that very few people have truly photographic memories. Many people who are highly intelligent have very good memories. Photographic memories are associated with geniuses for a reason. However, most geniuses merely have very good memories. Most of the people who have truly photographic memories are on the autistic spectrum. It should be noted that having a truly photographic memory often has very little to do with a person’s general intelligence, despite the associations between photographic memories and highly intelligent people. These associations were never really made in clinical psychology, and they say more about the general public’s view of intelligence than anything else.
Plenty of psychologists and psychological researchers are actually sceptical as to whether or not photographic memories are actually real. It should also be noted that very few adults have anything resembling a photographic memory. The people that have these sorts of memories are almost exclusively twelve years old or even younger, and there’s a reason for that. Children absorb information at a frightening rate compared to adults. However, their reasoning skills and judgment skills are radically underdeveloped.
As children develop the reasoning skills and verbal skills that they need in order to become adults and function in the adult world, their shocking information processing abilities begin to subside. The photographic memories that some children can experience could be viewed as more extreme versions of the fantastic information processing power that a lot of children have in the first place. People that nurture their children’s abilities when it comes to memory may be that much more likely to help them retain those abilities into adulthood, but the majority of those kids are going to lose those powers.
Some people that do retain their photographic memories into adulthood also have social difficulties that are uncommon in other adults. The fact that many young children lose their strong informational processing abilities as they mature also helps signal the fact that having a photographic memory represents a trade-off in some ways. People can’t have everything when it comes to mental abilities. Trading a photographic memory for better social and verbal skills will probably represent an even trade for many people.