"My mind works like Google Images."
"Photographic is a misnomer. I have an eidetic memory, as I've told you many times. Most recently last year during lunch on the afternoon of May seventh. You had turkey and complained it was dry."
Photographic Memory, technically called eidetic memory, is the ability to recall images, sounds or objects in memory with near perfect accuracy and in abundant volume.
True eidetic memory is not simply "exceptional memory for details
", but involves memory which actually works in a way vastly different from normal memory, specifically, the ability to "capture" an image after a short exposure, such that the eideticer has the subjective experience of actually still seeing it even after it has been removed. Someone with a good memory can notice details about something they see, and then recall those details months later. Someone with an eidetic memory can look at something, remember it later, and, when remembering it, notice details they completely missed the first time.
While many people can claim to possess an extraordinary memory, most researchers believe that it is unlikely that true eidetic memory exists in adults, and most cases of "real life" photographic memories are either the result of intense training and devotion, such as among composers, or abnormalities of the brain. Solomon Shereshevsky
and Kim Peek, the inspiration for Rain Man
are some of the rare confirmed real life examples. A more contemporary example is Jill Price
who has almost perfect recall of events that have happened during her life due to constant reinforcement of memories through journals.
On TV, every third character has a photographic memory, which here means only that they recall everything they see. When needed for the plot. Sometimes paired with Laser-Guided Amnesia
for ironic effect. If the narrator has this, he is an Infallible Narrator
Contrast Remembered Too Late
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Anime and Manga
- Minami Megumi aka Megu from Tantei Gakuen Q uses her photographic memory to aid her in solving mysteries.
- Also, one of the victims of the day was a famous artist who had a similar ability. He also was Shino Katagiri's Unlucky Childhood Friend, and as he lay dying he left some clues about the identity of his killer. Megu is the one who puts two and two together and, with Kyu's help, solves the case.
- Sheska from Fullmetal Alchemist is the trope Up to Eleven. When the library containing Dr. Marcoh's notes burns down, Sheska, a former employee, manages to write them all down from memory, and is subsequently tapped to rewrite possible the entire library- this being the main branch and containing legal documents as well. In her case, her perfect recall seems to be limited to only what she has read, stemming from her obsession with books and reading.
- Kimblee also has a photographic memory, unfortunately. He uses this to torture a man by reciting every murder that he committed in a previous bloody war and when he instantly recalls Scar's face from a group of Ishvalans (several of them Scar's family) that he killed.
- The titular Index from A Certain Magical Index has photographic memory. It was used to remember a library worth of magic books. The side effect was the danger of Index's brain overflowing from too much memories, mandating wiping her memories every year. Said danger was in fact a lie to prevent her from rebelling - someone with a library worth of magic books is extremely dangerous.
- Accelerator also has this, but only for what he sees. He memorizes a massive page of computer code by looking at it once, destroys it, and comments it was easy. He has forgotten his real name from not using it for a really long time, and he needed help to remember the lyrics for Index's song.
- In Creo the Crimson Crises, we have Creo who aces a physics quiz by flipping through the physics textbook and memorizing it a few minutes before the quiz.
- Naoki Irie from Itazura Na Kiss. He doesn't study because he remembers everything he sees. He comes across the love letter Kotoko wrote to him (that he had refused reading initially) while she is asleep and then later proceeds to recite it verbatim in front of their families to tease her earning him a well deserved slap.
- Special A: Top ranked in the scohol, Kei Takashima states in episode 1 that he only needs to see something once to remember it.
- Lavi from D. Gray-Man, as expected from a future Bookman, has a photographic memory. He's able to find one particular key amongst thousands of its illusions, because 'The scratches, the dirt, all the patterns of the plating of the real key were recorded in his head ever since he first saw it.'
- This is Mako's special ability in Saki. She lived in a Mahjong parlor ever since she was little and can perfectly remember the many, many games she had seen. By remembering the Mahjong games that fit the one she's currently in, she can figure out what her opponents are planning and play accordingly.
- According to his eighth movie, not only does Conan remember everything in crystal detail, but he can even rewind the last twenty-or-so minutes of film to let his eidetic memory take over in order to solve the murder. So he's got... what, a cinematographic memory?
- It's implied that Hiruma from Eyeshield 21 has this kind of memory. It's particularly noticeable when he's playing Black Jack in a casino and memorized every single card that was taken from the deck and winning that way, or when Mamori creates review sheets for hand signals. Before she gives it out to the team, Hiruma snatches it away, flips through it, and then burns it. When Mamori says that Hiruma didn't even read it, Hiruma demonstrates that he did memorize it by sending her a message that "the team manager secretly ate all the cream puffs."
- Heinrich Shultz of the German National Team is outright stated to have this, and he uses it to predict an opponent's moves with absurd accuracy just by remembering their previous games (his 4.2 second 40 yard dash certainly helps).
- All of the Uchiha from Naruto have this ability, thanks to the Sharingan. Allows them to learn any technique (that does not involve genetic inheritance, and that the user can physically perform) without fail, and even to forge handwriting.
- Shikamaru is implied to have this as well, considering he memorized Tayuya's finger patterns when she uses her flute for her jutsus.
- Breo from Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. It helps him greatly, because he uses a Deck Destruction deck, and it is very important for him to keep track of the cards in his opponent's deck, hand, field, and graveyard.
- Armitage's daughter Yoko from Armitage III.
- Tokura Misaki from Cardfight!! Vanguard. It's not a pretty situation for her because it comes packaged with PTSD from witnessing her parents' car crash. The memory does prove useful in cardfights, where it helps her memorize and predict the content of her opponent's deck.
- Yasuri Nanami from Katanagatari uses a Photographic Memory to learn Kyoto Ryu, as well as to copy the moves of the Maniwa Insect Squad who attack her.
- The titular Neuro and Interpol agent Andrew Sixson from Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro have eiditic memories. The villain Sicks managed to copy Andrew's photograpic memory amongst other things.
- Mashiro in Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanojo has a photographic memory that is closer to textbook definitions.
- The main character Ryouta from Kiwaguro No Brynhildr can remember anything he has seen and makes him very observant which has helped many times. It even appears to be the reason he was not affected by a Laser-Guided Amnesia attack.
- Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl and Oracle in The DCU. This notably backfired for her, as she remembers every detail of her getting shot and paralyzed by the Joker.
- Also from DC is Bart Allen, who was formerly Impulse, a former Flash and the second Kid Flash. He superspeed-read the entire San Francisco Public Library. This makes him an exception to most speedsters, who are able to learn something at an accelerated speed (Wally once learned how to, and then constructed, a fully functioning steel bridge in a matter of minutes) but not capable of retaining those memories. Bart's ability may be limited to perfectly recalling what he reads.
- Sage, a member of the X-Men, has a photographic memory as well as other powers. Also justified, as this is a mutant ability.
- X-Men founder and former headmaster Professor X has one as well, but an extremely weird one. He can transfer parts of his short term memory to his long term memory, getting a similar effect. At times that telepaths have perfect memories because they can read their own minds.
- Grunge from Gen13.
- A relatively minor villain in the Marvel Universe, the Taskmaster, takes this trope a step further with his "photographic reflexes" - if he sees something done, even on TV, he can easily replicate it regardless of complexity. He can pass as a master chef, use any fighting style, and even catch a bullet. The 2010 Taskmaster miniseries reveals that this comes at a cost. Copying so many moves has made him forget a lot of other memories - including those about his personal life, like the fact that he used to be a SHIELD agent, the true origin of his photographic ability and that he has a hot Spicy Latina as a wife.
- Deaf heroine Echo, an Avenger and former lover of Daredevil, has this ability. Whether it's a mutant power or natural aptitude is never clearly defined.
- Averted in Transmetropolitan - Spider doesn't need a photographic memory, because this is The Future, and a camera is built into his glasses. (Although there are pharmaceuticals that wire your nervous system up like a cellphone or grant you genetic traits like resistance to cancer, so maybe there is an eidetic memory pill...)
- The blue Bug people (and by extension Oliver) in Invincible have eidetic memory as a racial trait, due to the fact they have a life span of less than a year and need to learn everything quickly.
- Superman examples:
- During Infinite Crisis, Superman lost his powers. One Year Later, he regained them and picked up a couple of new ones, including true photographic memory and superfast calculative processes (which he immediately uses in battle.) When the photographic memory first hits him, he can suddenly retroactively recall his entire life this way. The Silver Age and Bronze Age Superman also had this power, but the Post Crisis Superman did not, until this point.
- Final Crisis included perhaps Superman's most impressive display of this power, when he's able to construct a replica of the fantastically complex Miracle Machine after only glimpsing it (using X-Ray Vision and such to see its insides, of course) for a second.
- Unusually for a comic book robot, Atomic Robo lacks this ability. It seems his memory works like an ordinary human's, not like a computer's. He can forget things, has to study for college exams, doesn't automatically learn foreign languages (e.g., he's never bothered to learn Japanese), etc.
- "Lord Nikon" from the movie Hackers.
- In the movie The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne glances at a map before wildly taking off through the streets, seemingly knowledgeable of exactly where he's going. Later, in a restaurant, he discusses his instant awareness of all the license plate numbers on cars parked outside (among several other things)—along with how his brain is able to parse the information he automatically retains into usefulness. He mentions that it's really weird that he can compute all those things in an instant, given that he does not even know his real name.
- Good Will Hunting's main character has a seemingly infallible memory. This doesn't give him skills, though he also has an impressive (if underutilized) intelligence and an even greater gift for mathematics, but it's useful.
Skyler: So what are you saying? You play the piano?
Will: No, not a lick. I mean, I look at a piano, I see a bunch of keys, three pedals, and a box of wood. But Beethoven, Mozart, they saw it, they could just play. I couldn't paint you a picture, I probably can't hit the ball out of Fenway, and I can't play the piano.
Skyler: But you can do my organic chem paper in under an hour.
- Spoofed in Carry On Spying. Barbara Windsor's character has eyelids that actually make a shutter-click sound as she "photographs" things she sees.
- Telefon (1977). Charles Bronson's KGB agent character has this ability, which comes in handy for memorising a top-secret list (only two copies exist) of Manchurian Agents. Unfortunately this makes Bronson the third book, and so his superiors give orders that he should be killed as soon as his mission is over.
- Robocop, like Seven of Nine, has a hard drive in his head. As the Corrupt Corporate Executive remarks to The Dragon, "his memory is admissible as evidence!"
- Justified since, unlike most examples on this page, Robo's memory can actually be retrieved, played back, and even output onto disc.
- The male lead in Thoughtcrimes has true eidetic memory. At on point, his telepathic partner asks him to visualise a scene so that she can look through it searching for clues.
- Christie seems to have this in Dead or Alive The Movie. She manages to draw Helena's tattoo (the key to a vault) from memory having glimpsed it for less than a second, while in full motion, during a fight.
- Marty Feldman's character in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother has phonographic memory — he can exactly repeat anything he has ever heard.
- The biopic Temple Grandin is a real life account of the life of Temple Grandin, quoted above. As she has said, her mind works like Google Images, and they have a scene in the film that shows just how that works. One of Temple's teachers remarks after Temple's favorite horse has died that we shouldn't remember him this way, but Temple proceeds to name off every single horse that looked like hers she has ever seen. Surprised, he asks her if she can bring everything she sees into her mind, even if it's something simple like a shoe (and not specific like horses that looked like hers) and she does the same thing again.
- In the Soviet sci-fi film Moscow - Cassiopeia, the government is selecting exceptional teenagers for an interstellar mission on a slower-than-light ship to the a star in the Cassiopeia constellation. One of the teens is a smug kid who was chosen for his eidetic memory. He claims to be able to perfectly recall 10 pages of fine print after reading them once, a Chekhov's Skill that pops up a few times when it is needed.
- The drug from Limitless grants this, but it wears off.
- Gillian Taylor from Star Trek IV claimed to have photographic memory, and was able to remember a conversation she overheard between Kirk and Spock, which made her question what they were really up to.
- The movie version of Fahrenheit451 ends with the main character joining a society where everyone is able to memorize an entire book. They have to destroy the books after memorizing them to destroy all evidence.
Live Action TV
- Most role-playing games will have a way for a character to have a perfect memory. Benefits might include anything from being able to remember tiny details of a previous encounter or scene without a roll to being able to ask the DM for information he had given to the character but that you forgot to write down.
- Of particular note is the New World of Darkness, where Eidetic Memory (Of the remember anything you've ever bothered to variety) is a 2-Dot merit. For reference a starting PC gets a free 7 dots of merits, making this an extremely useful merit that is picked up by nearly EVERY non-physical character, and several physical. Along with this is Encyclopedic Knowledge, where a character is entitled to a roll to know anything through random happenstance. As this is a 4-Dot merit, it's quite common for a person to pick up both of these at character creation to have a character who remembers everything that has happened to him and some things that didn't.
- In Nobilis, the Aspect score governs memory (as well as general physical and mental ability). At Aspect 2, characters can remember everything they've ever seen or heard, though weaker characters can easily gain this advantage temporarily if necessary. At Aspect 6, characters are capable of memorizing everything ever written.
- In Mage: The Awakening, one of the abilities available to advanced members of the Mysterium (collectors of magical lore) is the ability to have an Eidetic Memory for any facts related to the Mysterium (which depending on ST interpretation, can be a fairly broad definition).
- The Unknown Armies sourcebook distinguishes between "photographic memory" and "eidetic memory", defining them for the purposes of the game as (respectively) the ability to consciously look at a scene for a moment and recall everything about it, and the ability to recall the gist of anything they have ever read.
- In GURPS Eidetic Memory is flawless and effortless while Photographic Memory requires an IQ roll (hard thinking) to work properly.
- At least in some editions (e.g. 3rd) it can also verge on being a bit of a Game Breaker because it cuts the cost of "regular" (non-magic or -psi) mental skills simply in half or even down to one-quarter normal. This can be balanced to some extent by starting point totals (Eidetic Memory itself isn't cheap) and by how much emphasis the campaign puts on using physical skills like just about all combat ones as well.
- In Mutants & Masterminds, the Eidetic Memory feat allows one to, in addition to having perfect recall, resist mind-wiping attempts more easily.
- Photographic Memory is an Epic Intelligence Knack in Scion. The "look at something once and remember it forever" version of this is justified in that, well, the person with the trait is either a god-in-training or some other variety of supernatural being. This gets downright vicious when combined with Scire (the Atlantean Purview) or other "learn something and then forget it" powers - normally you forget what you learn from these powers when they wear off, but the book specifically states you don't if you have Photographic Memory.
- Eclipse Phase has eidetic memory and mnemonic augmentation available as bioware and cyberware, respectively. There is also an eidetic memory trait that can be part of the character's ego and thus transferable to new morphs.
- Another Code: Ashley Mizuki Robbins has a ridiculously good memory, able to recall from before the age of three, albeit with some form of trigger. A good portion of the plot is helping her remember those events, as they have relevance to what's happening in the present.
- The Pokémon Alakazam (and presumably its pre-evolutions) possesses a photographic memory, apparently because its system can replace lost neurons and have them undergo mitosis (the brain cells of your typical eumetazoan note cannot do either).
- The Touhou series has Hieda no Akyu, who reincarnates with the perfect memory of her former reincarnation and, over her life, has photographic memory; she is the ninth reincarnation of the Child of Miare, tracing back 1200 years. She wrote, compiled, and edited the character compendiums Perfect Memento in Strict Sense and Symposium of Post-mysticism, which are portions of an unreleased larger volume of in-series work called the Gensokyo Chronicles.
- Drells and salarians in Mass Effect have both this ability: Salarians remember every piece of information they've ever read or heard, but drells can't fully control their ability, having spontaneous flashbacks if their nerves get enough stimulation for it. Needless to say, the memories they see aren't neccessary the good ones... or they can be very pleasant, and it becomes more than useful during lonely nights. On the other hand, even with the lonely nights entertainment, it's noted that some drell can end up so wrapped up in those good memories that they stop interacting with the external world.
- Officer Nick Brick of LEGO Island has one.
- One of the characters in the Murder Mystery Visual Novel Jisei can perfectly recite the prices of cafe menu items, since he remembers everything he sees, smells, or hears in a location. His eidetic memory helps fool the main character into believing that he is a regular at the cafe when it is actually his first time there.
- Artie from Narbonic is said to have an eidetic memory, but although this is the subject of a few jokes it's never a plot point. Possibly justified by Artie being a product of genetic engineering.
- Misho from Keychain of Creation has the variant that pairs it with amnesia; justified in that he's essentially a demigod and his memory runs on magic. Also noteworthy in that his perfect memory extends even into his previous life.
- In fact, his memory is a curse; to learn magic, he sacrificed his Ignorance.
- In the Whateley Universe, Carmilla (Sara Waite) has eidetic memory. This is because she's not human: she's mostly demon, and her cellular structure is closer to a living cancer than anything else modern medicine knows about. She knows how many grains of salt were spilled on the table that morning, etc.
- Some other students at the Superhero School Whateley Academy have photographic memories: it's a common ability of high-level Exemplars.
- Strong Bad of Homestar Runner admits of having an unphotographic memory in the Strong Bad Email "highschool", and that his is more "like a doodle memory."
- Ben Tennyson of the Ben 10 franchise has photographic memory as he was able to remember the runes on the Door to Anywhere after seeing them just once. He does not apply his photographic memory to schoolwork though.
- Jimmy Neutron from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
- Lex Luthor on Justice League Unlimited, as revealed in the episode "Panic in the Sky".
- Ingrid Third in Fillmore!!, who is taken by a genius because of that.
- Sonia from Sonic Underground claimed to have photographic memory.
- Brother Blood from Teen Titans, implied to be a side-effect of his Psychic Powers. After looking at Cyborg's blueprints, he was able to months later not only copy the technology, but adapt it to various weapons (BFGs, robot armies, himself...)
- An old Russian cartoon involves a man visited at night by an alien, who grants him certain abilities, including telepathy, eidetic memory, X-ray vision, the ability to read a closed book in a second, and mad math skills. One interesting scene involves him walking by a book seller, who is advertising a brand-new novel. He glances at it and says he has read better. When the people complain that he couldn't possibly have read the book, he has them pick a page at random and have him recall it from memory. He recites the words verbatim, including a a line-wrapped word from the previous page. He ends up losing these powers by accident at the end when he tells a couple of thieves "Game over", which is actually the code phrase implanted by the alien in case the man doesn't like his gift.
- In one Rocky and Bullwinkle arc, Bullwinkle demonstrated the ability to remember everything he ever ate during his lifetime. When he ate a banana in which Boris Badenov hid a secret formula he had stolen, Bullwinkle was able to recite the formula by memory(although he didn't have any idea what it was).
- Pinkie Pie of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a truly phenomenal memory for details, ranging from the precise date of everypony in town's birthday, exact time and location for every single party she throws, literary content down to the page number from a book she barely glanced, to being able to literally recognise a duplicate of an image she saw for less than a second. (It doesn't mean she can perfectly recall everything she remembers; she totally forgets her own birthday.)
- In Spiderman The Animated Series, Felicia Hardy's father was a notorious cat burglar with a photographic memory. As a youth he was duped by the Red Skull into spying on the Super Soldier project that created Captain America and he memorized the Super Serum formula. When he was later tried for his crimes, Nick Fury took him into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody to keep the secret safe. Even decades later he remembers the formula perfectly.
- Memory tests on chimpanzees suggest that their short-term memories may work like this. This suggests that the rare human who demonstrates eidetic memory, far from being "superhuman", may actually be accessing an old, basal anthropoid ability that most humans' neurology had to forfeit in the course of acquiring spoken language.
- Which could partly explain why people on the autistic spectrum often have eidetic memory.