Psychology majors say photographic memory can be learned

Written by: 
Hannah Jones

BYU-Hawaii psychology students discussed whether or not the phenomenon of photographic memory - the ability to remember images in perfect detail - is real and if it is learned or innate.


Wai Yan Ng, a senior from Hong Kong majoring in psychology, said she believes photographic memory could be learned and developed. “Daily life demands could shape the way human beings react to the environment. There are techniques to train yourself for that, including mnemonics and other mental conditioning.”


Taylor McElhaney, a freshman from California with an undeclared major, said she thinks photographic memory can be both learned and innate. “I think there are some instances where you can naturally remember everything, but I know there are also techniques to increase what you remember.


“I have a really bad memory. My friends tell me stories about what we used to do from … a year ago, and I vaguely remember it.”


Although McElhaney acknowledged the benefits of photographic memory, she said, “It is also a negative. There are some things that everyone wishes they couldn't remember. I've had my fair share of that.”


Ng said, “If you have experienced a traumatic event and you have strong memories that are associated with photographic memory, you might just become miserable.”


Emily Barnett, a sophomore from Pennsylvania majoring in psychology, was hesitant to say she believes in photographic memory. “I would say that maybe others have a higher ability to memorize when given a graphic or written material. I sometimes can't pronounce or remember a name until after writing it out and seeing it.”


Ng expressed similar uncertainty. He said, “To an extent I believe in photographic memory. I've seen people remember pages of text in detailed significantly better than others, but I am not sure if it should be coined as photographic memory.”


McElhaney doesn’t question the existence of photographic memory. She stated, “I do believe it is real. I've seen videos of people explaining what happened on an insignificant day of the year. I've never really thought to doubt photographic memory.”

Date Published: 
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Last Edited: 
Thursday, November 30, 2017