A high school student recently sent me a series of 5 questions and I thought my answers for her may be of interest to everyone so here it is:
My essential question is “Is human memory learned or inherited?” The types of memory I am talking about are like the photographic types of memory, or any eidetic. As of right now, I believe that it is inherited. I don’t believe that someone can learn how to have a true, real, photographic memory… I believe if someone thinks they are learning it, they already have it and that they are just enhancing what they already have. So here are my questions for you:
1) What type of memory do you have? Specific name? There are names of memory (auto biographical is an interesting one you might want to read about) but the truth is there is no name for my memory other than ‘trained memory’. I trained it to be able to do the things that I do.
2) Do you think someone can learn how to have a special kind of memory? Not the basic long-term, memory. I.e. memorizing your address, or your lines for a play, etc. Like the memories I listed above. And just in case you don’t know what hyperthymesia is (its really unknown) it’s the ability to remember every single thing from ones life from a certain age. There are VERY FEW recorded people with this. Jill Price is one if you would like to look her up. 🙂 —– Well I think hyperthmesia is what I was referencing earlier when I talked about auto biographical memory. I guess there is more than 1 name for it. Yes, I believe anyone can develop a special kind of memory.
3) Reasoning for answer to question 2? Because it is how I have made my living for the last 20 years www.brainathlete.com Anyone can learn to memorize a 100 digit number in 5 minutes, a deck of cards in less than 2 minutes, how to give speeches without notes or memorize 100 names in 15 minutes. It is a memory system that some call a ‘memory palace’ or ‘method of loci’ http://www.brainathlete.com/memory-palace/
4) What age did you realize you had a special memory, or realization to what you’re capable of? I took a memory seminar when I was 18 years old. That was 20 yeas ago. I am 38 today. Everyone has this ability, including you. It might be interesting for you to take this project 1 step further and compete in the usa memory championship march 24th in NYC. It is $25 to enter and anyone can. It might be a fun learning experience. Bring some friends 🙂
5) How would say you fit into society? Like what do you offer, can you explain it to me? A lot of people think someone with a memory ability such as mine means you are for the lack of a better word a ‘nerd’. If you attended a memory tournament you would see people from all walks of life. I am a professional speaker and so I obviously interact fine. I also served 8 years in the US Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. In reality having a trained memory is nothing more than developing a new skill. It would be like you deciding you wanted to be fluent in latin. It wouldn’t mean you interacted poorly with society it just became your hobby. This is my hobby (and job) Here is my bio http://www.brainathlete.com/meet-ron-white-memory-expert/