Is It Possible For Someone To Remember Everything?
What’s your earliest memory you can recall? How old were you? In how much detail can you remember?
These are all interesting questions to ask when thinking about how the mind remembers things. Research shows that the average adult can remember something as early as age 6-to-6 ½. Often, these memories stand out and stay with a person because they are emotional, more so in a negative way. For example, someone may remember the first day they met their best friend because it was the same day they broke their arm. Other times, you will remember something in great detail because it changed who you are. It all comes back in bits and pieces for some, and others say they have a memory like an elephant. This leaves one person to wonder if it is possible for someone to remember everything?
How memories work
The brain is a complicated organ and studies about how it works change every year. Concerning how the brain stores memories, scientists know that memories are stored throughout many brain structures in the connections between neurons. Short-term memories, like your hotel’s room number, is stored in the pre-frontal lobe. Short-term memories become long-term ones when the neurons and synapses reach the hippocampus. Here, deep in the brain, the hippocampus takes simultaneous memories from a single “episode” and stores it away. This way, when you remember a dinner party that happened ten years ago, you’ll recall it all versus the smells, sounds, and sites as separate memories.
You may hear someone say that they have a “photographic” memory. Photographic memories, scientifically called eidetic memories, is when a person can recall an image from memory having briefly seen it once. Famous people who say they have photographic memories include Nikola Tesla, C.S. Lewis, Leonardo DaVinci, and Theodore Roosevelt. In the IFL Science article, Just 1% Of People Can Find The Hidden Letter In This Quiz, you can test to see if you have a photographic memory.
How’d you do on the quiz? If you thought that was hard, you’re not alone and are the majority of people who need more time and memory techniques to store information. If those with a photographic memory seem impossible, there is a minority of people who can remember the vast majority of personal experiences and events in their lives. Scientists call this phenomenon hyperthymesia. Psychologist Charles Fernyhough explores this rare type of memory ability in his book Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory. In an interview with The Guardian, he briefly sums up hyperthymesia: “When we look at how memories are constructed by the brain, the unreliability of memory makes perfect sense. In storyboarding an autobiographical memory, the brain combines fragments of sensory memory with a more abstract knowledge about events, and reassembles them according to the demands of the present.” Sometimes people get hyperthymesia and autism confused, but they are two entirely separate things.
The boy who can’t forget a thing
Scientists have not yet been able to explain this mysterious ability. Those that have it can hardly explain what it is like! Take English literature student at Durham University Aurelien Hayman, for example. He is one of twenty people in the entire world who has this fascinating memory capability. Hayman spoke to The Daily Mail, detailing one memory from 2006:
“Now, when asked about the random date of October 1, 2006, for example, Aurelien remembers it was a cloudy Sunday, he listened to the song When You Were Young by The Killers, and he had asked out a girl but been turned down. Not only that, but he recalls that on the Saturday he was wearing a blue t-shirt and saw the girl who would later rebuff him in the city centre of his native Cardiff, and that on the Thursday there was a power cut at his home.” It’s strange to think that some people can recall one evening in their life in great detail!
Various techniques will help increase your ability to remember things. Maybe not in as much detail as someone with hyperthymesia, but enough where you can pass the BAR exam. Mnemonic devices, the method of Loci, along with Iris reading’s Advanced Comprehension & Memory course all offer ways to strengthen the memory muscles in your mind. In this online course, you’ll learn how to improve your everyday memory so you can better recall passwords, names, and appointments. Additionally, we’ll give you the tools and skill set that will aid you with your reading comprehension of all types of materials. Click the link to learn more today!