Sunday, December 30, 2012

Photographic Memory

Meredith told me that in science class one day, her friends wanted to "test" her to see whether or not she truly has a photographic memory, which she often claims to have. To do this, a student showed Meredith a picture of a fish--an outline of a fish that was meant to be colored in by the students as an assignment--and then asked her to draw it from memory. She drew most of the fish, but didn't get it all. "Gotcha!" I'm sure they said. Meredith was upset that her classmates now didn't believe she had a photographic memory.  The problem, she told me, was that the person who was showing her the drawing wasn't holding it steady and as a result, the mental picture Meredith took of the drawing was partially blurry.

Something about that story amazes me.  I think the fact that Meredith's mental picture was partially blurry is more amazing than the fact that she can hold images in her mind for a long time (whether or not that is truly a photographic memory).  It demonstrates that she actually does take a "snapshot" of something to remember it and her memory will only be as good as the snapshot she takes!

Since this post was written, we discovered that Meredith also has Irlen Syndrome--a visual processing disorder. One of the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome is perceiving high contrast things, like black words or lines on a white page,  as moving. There seem to be classic ways that things are seen to be moving--floating, shaking, moving off the page, etc.  With this new understanding, Irlen Syndrome seems to be the logical explanation for why Meredith thought her classmate wasn't holding the picture of the fish steady.  

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