Do you remember what you ate for lunch the day before yesterday? Do you remember information you read a week ago? Can you recall the color of the dress your friend wore at last night’s party? If you answer yes to most of the questions, you are lucky. You are one of these people born with a photographic memory.
What is photographic memory?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, photographic memory is “an unusual ability to remember things completely and exactly as they were seen, read, etc.” Prof. Barry Gordon of Neurology and Cognitive Science at John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine explains further:
How photographic memory works
Prof. John Hopkins synonymizes our notion of photographic memory with the photograph. It is the ability to recall information and examine it in detail. But photographic memory of this level has not been proven to exist yet.
More people remember a person’s face than they do the name of that person. Prof. Hopkins argues that this is not really a photographic memory but just a normal distinction between the different types of memory.
So how come some people are able to recall things with such vividness and accuracy? It is caused by a combination of factors, such as genetics, brain development, and experiences. Some memories are associated with the person’s interests and training. Some people exhibit a surprising ability to recall memories from some areas of the brain.
However, a large number of people struggle to recall information they read or watched in the past. While people can’t train themselves to have a photographic memory in a fool-proof manner, there are some ways to improve your ability to remember things.
How to improve your ability to recall
Since there are still arguments that photographic memory is not real, we can rename this section on how to develop a “photographic” memory to how to improve your ability to recall information. While photographic memory sounds like a superpower which many people are not able to possess, improving our abilities to recall will to a certain degree give us that superpower.
Keep your mind active
While we do many activities that make use of our brains in our daily lives, most of these are already routines. Performing routines allow our brains to stay on “autopilot” mode and increase their tendency to be idle.
Our brain is like a muscle – the more we use it or exercise it, the better it will perform. We can keep our minds active by playing board games, reading, solving crossword puzzles, learning a new musical instrument or language, and more.
Do more physical activities
Working out those muscles and doing other physical activities increases the blood flow throughout the different parts of the body, including the brain. The brain gets more nutrients and oxygen to help it functioning better. At least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week is ideal for the brain.
If you are too busy to get all that exercise done, squeeze in a brisk 10 minute walk or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Learn to believe that forgetfulness is not a memory issue. People tend to forget things because they are too distracted to effectively retain information. Learn to focus on one thing and avoid multitasking. Multitasking may enable you to deal with several things at once, but focusing on only one thing saves you time in the long run, and enables you to recall information better.
Repeat names verbally
Most people recall a person’s face rather than his or her name. Some people even struggle to remember names a few seconds after meeting a person. This is because people are often distracted when hearing a person’s name.
To remember the names of all the new people you meet, try to repeat their names while shaking hands. For example, you can say, “Nice to meet you, John”. Another technique is to associate the name with a person you already know.
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