"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 closest real life examples of this ability. 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 hired to rewrite possibly 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.
- Vato Falman is able to recall every detail and information in any location without leaving physical evidence which is why Roy Mustang picked him as one of his subordinates.
- 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.
- According to Aureolus Izzard, vampires all have photographic memory.
- 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 Detective Conan's 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 photographic 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.
- Kagerou Project takes this one Up to Eleven with Shintaro Kisaragi, whose eye-power is "Retaining-eyes", which basically means that they remember every single thing they've ever seen and experienced - even across the multiple timelines and adaptations of the series thus far. Even when it lies dormant, he uses it subconsciously, hence his Teen Genius status. In at least one route, seeing all of the gruesome ends met by his friends and little sister drives him to suicide.
- 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.
- Batman also has eidectic memory. This helps immensely with his detective work but it's also one of the reasons he has never moved on from his parents' murder.
- Also from DC is Bart Allen, who was formerly Impulse, a former The 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.
- Bourne Legacy explains that this is due to a drug that all Treadstone agents are subjected to.
- 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 in RoboCop (1987), "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 DOA: 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' 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.
- Actually, when he said that, it wasn't actually for the mission but for a space club of sorts. In fact, the only reason he's chosen is because one of the girls chosen for the mission has a crush on him.
- 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.
- 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.
- FBI investigator Will Graham, hero of Thomas Harris' novel and movie Red Dragon and the man who first captured Hannibal Lecter, is explicitly identified as having eidetic memory. Lecter also exhibits such abilities.
- Lecter's abilities are semi-justified in the text by showing that he maintains a highly structured "cathedral of memories" to make it easy to access information.
- Robert Langdon, the lead character in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, also claimed to near perfect eidetic memory in The Da Vinci Code movie.
- Actually, he explicitly denied having perfect eidetic memory, only stating "I can pretty much remember what I see," implying just a really good visual memory, not all-out photographic.
- David Becker of Brown's Digital Fortress, on the other hand, explicitly does have eidetic memory.
- Lesley and Gordon in the Brian Caswell novel A Cage of Butterflies both possess photographic memories that allow them to play chess without a chessboard. This may be the only nonviolent, memory-based, chess-related case of Bad Assery.
- Caswell's Deucalion series also featured several main characters with the ability to recall every memory they ever had.
- The chess example is Truth in Television. Many chess Masters and Grand Masters can (or could) play "blindfold", that is, without seeing the board. Some could successfully play multiple games blindfold at the same time. The first known blindfold game of chess in Europe is documented to 1266. The current world record for greatest number of simultaneous blindfold games is 34, set in 1937 by George Koltanowski. He won 24 and lost 10.
- Christopher Boone, the 15-year-old hero of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, possesses eidetic memory. However, this is somewhat justified by his autism spectrum disorder; autism is associated with slightly higher rates of savant syndrome.
- And Christopher's also a mathematical savant.
- In the Discworld novel Small Gods, the main character Brutha's photographic memory is eventually used to smuggle a large portion of the scrolls of an entire library inside his head. Because he's illiterate, he can't understand what they say, he just knows what the pages look like. It's implied that this is actually a case of a neurological disorder, justifying it somewhat.
Bishop: What's the first thing you remember?
Brutha: There was a bright light and someone hit me.
- He begins to understand eventually, although he only gets snippets of random information, like remembering that "cuttlefish have an internal cartilaginous structure", without actually knowing what cartilaginous means.
- Girl detective Cam Jansen solves every case this way. Her real name is Jennifer; Cam is short for "The Camera".
- When taking a mental snapshot, she blinks like a shutter, and says, "Click."
- In Piers Anthony's SF novel Ghost, the captain of a spaceship has this ability.
- To the level that, in a demonstration for an admiral, he is able to answer the question, "What is the third word of the second sentence in the first paragraph of Volume 128a of the Space Regulatory Code?" Mentally, he opens the book, flips the pages, reads the word, and replies, "Celestial."
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, security operative (and eventually Chief of Imperial Security) Simon Illyan has an artificial eidetic memory, due to a computer chip implanted in his brain. It should be noted that
almost everyone else given such chips was eventually driven mad by the disconnect between their natural and artificial memories.
- Severian, the protagonist of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series. The narrative comprises Severian's journal, but although he claims to remember everything flawlessly, a careful examination of the text reveals that he does not always record those recollections consistently, suggesting that he either does have flaws in his memory or is lying. Pratchett's Brutha above may be a Shout-Out, as a minor character in Small Gods is named Severian and both have a Crystal Dragon Jesus version of the Catholic Church.
- A precise invokation of the trope, as described in the introduction above, occurs in this passage:
I thought of the herd driven through Saltus and counted them from memory: one hundred and thirty-seven. Then there were the soldiers who had come singing up from Gyoll. The innkeeper had asked me how many there were and I had guessed at a figure, but I had never counted them until now. He might, or might not, have been a spy.
- Wolfe's Soldier novels are an inversion. The narrator, Latro, can only remember events up to one day in the past (a Real Life medical condition), and his journal (which again comprises the narrative) is a flawed substitute for his long-term memory.
- In The Dresden Files, this is one of the Fallen's many helpful abilities.
- This is also how the Sight and soulgazing work for most wizards, allowing them to perfectly remember when they saw things as they really are. As Harry points out, in his line of work, that means he's got some really bad memories that will never grow dull with time. At one point, he sees the true form of the skinwalker, and has to spend hours wrestling with the memory so that he isn't perpetually getting Mind Raped by what he saw.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe characters Winter Celchu and Kirtan Loor both had an ability that approached this, if not meeting it. This being Star Wars, though, it was referred to as "holographic" memory, which depending on the quality of the hologram is probably more accurate. Coincidentally (or not), both became Intelligence officers, though on different sides of the war. Winter could remember conversations verbatim, and she famously had the drawback of her being unable to forget things she'd seen at all, so if she witnessed a tragedy she'd remember it as clearly twenty years later as she had the day after. (Winter being an Alderaanian offworld at the time of Episode IV, it gives her a certain melancholy.) Loor, meanwhile, could rattle off so many facts in succession that he would scare suspects into confessing (as they would assume that someone so knowledgeable must already have proof of their guilt anyway), but grew to rely overmuch on his memory, letting knowledge doing the work of actual intelligence and making assumptions. (He tried to overcome it when confronted with this flaw, but never quite managed it.)
- All of the Null-ARCs in the Clone Wars-era books have holographic memory. The writer makes it clear that all of them are unpredictable and more than a little psychotic.
- Ben Skywalker (son of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade) also has a photographic memory; this is first mentioned and utilized in Sacrifice, and again in Abyss, but it's easily missed, since most writers tend to gloss over it or not mention it at all.
- The title character in the story Funes the Memorious by Jorge Luis Borges. This character's more-than-photographic memory(it captures not only images, but sounds, words, smells, temperature sensations, and everything else he experiences) is accompanied by heightened senses, which make it difficult for him to sleep or communicate normally(since he can remember everything precisely as it was, he hardly needs language to make generalizations). It's ambiguous whether he's Blessed with Suck or better off than the rest of us. Although Funes often brags about his ability and thinks that everyone else lives in a shadowy Platonic Cave dream-world, he also compares his memory to a garbage heap.
- It is also very much indeed Deconstructed, in that the narrator claims that Funes "can't think anymore" as the process of thinking would require generalizations and Funes is unable to make them, so he can have all the information in the world but would never come with something new. So, in a way, he was both a genius and a retard.
- 'genius and a retard' - that observation is particularly interesting when one considers that in the Book of the New Sun (mentioned above) both the library and the librarian are a shout out to Borges, while the mnemonist Severian is a famously Unreliable Narrator.
- Danny Saunders in The Chosen seems to have one, to demonstrate, he asks narrator Reuven which portion of Talmud he is studying and proceeds to recite it word for word. Then he says he can do the same thing with Ivanhoe.
- J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in his background materials for Middle-Earth that all elves have this kind of memory.
- In The Hobbit, Bilbo steals a single gold cup from Smaug's Dragon Hoard. When Smaug wakes up and inspects his treasure, he instantly realizes the cup is missing. For the record, Smaug's pile of treasure is HUGE.
- Bean has the real deal. It's explicitly stated that Bean can watch an entire video, and rewatch it in his mind to learn new details. Of course, he's the result of his Mad Scientist uncle's crazy genetic experiments, gifting Bean with a raw intelligence that surpasses even Ender. Bean even learns passwords by rewatching the blurred fingertips of the typist over and over again. And to be fair, at no point is this ever just waved off. Everyone aware of Bean's capabilities recognizes that Bean is far, far beyond them. And this takes place in a school designed to churn out tykebombs for command positions.
- This ends up being the plot point in Ender's Shadow. Bean picks a random book to pretend to read while he does something else. When confronted about his choice of the book, he recalls it in his mind using this method (having glanced at it) and somehow uses that to figure out the whole IF plan. To clarify, the book he chose was completely random.
- In Twilight, the vampires are able to remember everything from the time of their becoming a vampire on.
- The Executioner. Vigilante Mack Bolan has an eidetic memory, which proves useful when he's infiltrating a mob family — he can relate a minor detail about someone's life to convince them they've met before (as the more elite mob killers use plastic surgery it doesn't seem strange that Bolan's face is unfamiliar).
- Lisbeth Salander of the "Millennium" trilogy.
- Ollivander, the Diagon Alley wand-maker in Harry Potter, can remember the details of every wand he has ever made and who bought it.
- Dumbledore's Pensieve allows anyone using it to experience perfect recall. Although memories can be deliberately tampered with, in general they are preserved perfectly in the Pensieve, in virtual reality, including not only details the memory donor would have missed but also ones they could not possibly have seen in the first place.
- Memories retrieved through Legilimency act as the above pensieve is described.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- The titular character of "Starman Jones" has this. No one told him not to, so he read his uncle's astrogation books, from which he learned the calculus. He also happened to memorize every logarithm table and every table converting numbers into binary. Another character marvels at not being able to forget anything. "I've been able to forget a lot of things, thank Heaven."
- A number of Heinlein's characters have amazing recall: in Stranger in a Strange Land, they even made a profession out of it (people with the ability were licensed as "Fair Witnesses" and anything they were willing to say they had heard or seen was assumed to be the truth). Lazarus Long also claimed to have memorized the logarithm tables and said he could learn a new language in one week, although his memory does degrade over time, especially since he's lived many centuries and keeps filling his head with new things.
- From M. A. Foster's The Book of the Ler, all of the ler (a forced evolution of humans) have this type of memory. They can also 'auto-forget', delete some or all of their memories.
- Merlin in David Weber's Safehold series has this. Justified, as being a Ridiculously Human Robot he presumably has a hard drive in his head. At one point on being shown a journal he'd like to read but doesn't have time to he glances at each individual page explicitly so he can recall the saved image and read that later.
- Shallan from The Stormlight Archive has a version of this- she needs to concentrate on something in order to take it as a Memory (she uses the capital M to distinguish it from ordinary remembering), but once she does, it's there permanently and in perfect detail (though she can choose to forget it if she no longer needs it- usually after making a drawing of the Memory, since she's a sketch artist). Words Of Radiance implies that most, if not all, Lightweavers posses these abilities.
- Zahir Benumar/Zayn Hassan of Snare is a Recaller, a person genetically engineered to have absolute perfect recall of anything he sees or hears. Unfortunately, he inherited this gift from a long-dead ancestor, and the culture he was raised in sees people with talents derived from genetic engineering as demonspawn.
- 11-year-old prodigy Lucy McGowan in Thank You For All Things.
- Every Mentat in the Dune series possesses this skill. The Bene Gesseritt Reverend Mothers on the other hand have the memories of all their female ancestors going back to prehistory.
- In the prequel novels, it's even mentioned that the Reverend Mother designated with overseeing their breeding program doesn't keep any written or electronic records, instead keeping all the information in her Other Memory.
- Feruchemists from Mistborn use their magical powers to achieve something very like this; they can store up personal qualities (strength, speed, quickness of thought, etc) in pieces of metal, and memories are among these- meaning that, essentially, a feruchemist can store a massive amount of information perfectly and indefinitely in their "metalminds", which can be drawn forth as needed. Sazed, the main feruchemist character, is a scholar who has a tremendous amount of information on almost every subject imaginiable memorized in this way; he's almost literally a walking library.
- Time Scout's Brian Henrickson remembers everything he's ever read. He's the Time Terminal's librarian.
- The Chee from Animorphs are a race of androids with perfect memory. They are also ridiculously strong, essentially immortal, and programmed to be completely nonviolent. In their first appearance, one of the Chee reprograms himself so that he can help the main characters in their fight against alien invaders, and immediately re-installs the prohibition against violence after his first battle, because he'll have to live with the memories of what he did, picture-perfect, forever.
- The main character in The Owling has an eidetic memory, being able to instantaneously recall anything she’s ever seen, heard, or experienced in her lifetime at will. She loses this ability later in the series’ second book, which sucks for the plot but might be a relief to the character.
- Professor Mmaa's Lecture: The termites' "associative substance" (their brain equivalent) gives them a near-perfect memory.
- Neda Pathkendle in The Chathrand Voyages has this; she originally only had a very good normal memory, but her witch mother cast a spell on her when she was a teenager to enhance her strongest natural aptitude, granting her this instead- with the caviat that there are times she's basically sucked into her own memory and can't stop her mind from replaying past events, no matter how painful (her younger brother Pazel was affected by the spell too, in a different way- always good with languages he became an Omniglot, with the caviat that every so often he'll have a "mind fit" that renders him incapable of using or understanding language at all for several hours).
- In Elizabeth Vaughan's Chronicles of the Warlands series, everyone native to The Plains has this. These people have no need for written language, since they can perfectly recall oral lessons as long as they pay attention. In Destiny's Star, the character Bethral reveals that she has this too because her mother was from The Plains. The elderly character Wild Winds discovers he's losing his perfect memory, possibly indicating he's developing Alzheimer's. The people of The Plains often poke fun at other people for having "poor memories", like when they discover the city-dweller Ezren can't play chess in his head like they can.
- Both Sasha and Chichi in Akata Witch have this, which is why neither of them goes to school.
- In The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, the eponymous Rachel Griffin's perfect recall allows her to cancel out illusions by thinking back over what she has seen, as while her eyes may be decieved, her memory will not be. This turns out to be very helpful against villains who can make themselves invisible.
- Ronnie Cleveland in Flight To The Lonesome Place has a problem when people think he understands more than he knows due to his memory that they used once before.
- In the Nero Wolfe mystery series, Archie often describes Saul Panzer as having perfect recall of people's faces. One look at someone, and Saul will remember their face until the day he dies. Under Wolfe's training, Archie has developed the ability to recall and report extended conversations word-for-word.
Live Action TV
- Kat from Alphas.
- This is when it comes to Muscle Memory, her actual memory resets every month but still retains her Muscle Memory.
- In Doctor Who, the Eleventh Doctor has a photographic memory which he uses to find Prisoner Zero in his first episode and stop River from killing him in "Let's Kill Hitler". It is worth noting that the Doctor is in fact an alien, and that his race is perhaps the most technologically advanced in the entire universe. The contents of his mind are more than a human brain can handle.
- Among the Doctor's companions, this was a frequently displayed ability of the Second Doctor's companion Zoe, and an Informed Ability of the Sixth & Seventh Doctor's companion Mel.
- Mozzie, from White Collar. He calls it "perfect recall."
- Neal has shown signs of having this, as well, but to a lesser extent. At the very least, he seems to have the ability to remember every move of every chess game he's ever played or witnessed.
- He's also able to remember that the fractal images he had seen eight years earlier were similar to one that Mozzie had recently decoded, but none of them were exact.
- The X-Files: Fox Mulder claimed to have an Eidetic memory. It was first mentioned in season 1 when he talked with his ex from Oxford.
Phoebe Green: Unless I'm mistaken, ten years seems like sufficient time to have forgiven, if not forgotten, a few youthful indiscretions.
Mulder: I'm cursed with a photographic memory.
- Adrian Monk, from Monk. Monk's memory ever extends to his back. In a flashback, he reveals that he remembered Trudy's phone number after she wrote it down on a paper propped against his back for a Jerk Jock. In the same episode, he uses the same skill to recall another number.
- Shawn Spencer from Psych, another USA Network show, has a true photographic memory, being able to recall old memories and see new details in them. He also has an uncanny ability to remember several long serial numbers after nothing but a glance. This is coupled together with Hyper Awareness to make him able to notice and remember pretty much everything.
- Shawn's mother has the ability to sounds in a similar way to that of her son with objects.
- It's implied that this ability was developed thanks to his father putting him through Training from Hell in order to prepare him for a future career as a cop. Too bad Shawn had other ideas.
- Spencer Reid, from Criminal Minds.
- Notable in that it applies to anything he has read... A large part of the second season premiere is him trying to remember something he has heard.
- He also displays the ability to see new things in his memories, mentioned in the main article; in one season one episode, in order to solve a case (long story) he pulls up a word search puzzle in his mind and finds new words in it.
- Also not limited to visuals. He is shown in 100 repeating a recently-heard conversation word-for-word, on fast forward - in which it sounds less as though he has deliberately memorised the conversation, and more as though he is listening to it over again, and repeating the words as he hears them.
- Ziva David, a Mossad agent on NCIS.
- Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, from Prison Break, claims to have photographic memory. Charles "Haywire" Patoshik does, in fact, possess eidetic memory.
- Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. She is, however, a cyborg. The Doctor also suspected that Kes had an eidetic memory as well when she remembered details about her medical studies easily (Justified in that hers is a very short-lived species, and they have to learn quickly).
- Arguably Data, but he is a machine.
- It actually became a problem for the doctor at one point. He filled his harddrive until he crashed.
- Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory has an eidetic memory, and is able to recall the precise date and time of any event in his life and win complex card games through memorization, which he points out takes away all the challenge, and consequently the fun.
- Max Guevara, from Dark Angel, was able to translate the dial tone on speed dial into numbers.
- The terminators in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, notably Cameron who can even go so far as to re-enact a person's tone of voice and body language.
Cameron: You saw it right? You saw it? It's so freaking big and all out there!
- Babylon 5:
- Commander Susan Ivanova claimed to have eidetic memory. She recalled a once-heard Minbari phrase perfectly, despite not speaking the language at the time she heard it.
- In another episode, she memorizes the long list of all EarthForce personnel perished in a battle in order to make sure they were burying people and not statistics.
- Ambassador Kosh hires Abbut, a cyber-organic living recorder, to record thoughts and images from the mind of Talia Winters.
- Subverted on Angel, when Angel is asked if he remembers the code for a door, and replies "Hello? Photographic memory." He then gets the code wrong on the first try.
- He does demonstrate photographic recall on another occasion. He also says that he doesn't have it all the time, only when he actively tries.
- Kyle from Kyle XY combines this with his ability to draw photo-realistic pictures from said memories.
- Kyle has holographic memory meaning he can go back and see events as they happened in three dimensional space. This means that he can remember stuff he didn't actually see because it happened either behind his back or in a blind spot. Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds
- Adam Rove, from Joan of Arcadia.
- Charlie Andrew has this as her superpower on Heroes. And since Sylar kills her to steal this power, it can be assumed he has this now.
- Except Hiro changes the past, so Sylar no longer has this power.
- Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle recalls every item stolen from a home robbery after inadvertently abetting the thief. Much to the chagrin of the victims, who were counterfeiters.
- In a different episode he looked at two credit cards for a few seconds, remembered the numbers perfectly, then performed math using the numbers on them.
- His intelligence is actually discovered this way: he reels off everything that's wrong with a doctored psychotherapy image after taking only a momentary glance at it before knocking it aside (he's supposed to look at it for 60 seconds), because he was irritated and in a hurry, indicating a combination of eidetic memory, Sherlock Scan-like attention to detail, and super-fast reasoning abilities.
- TJ Henderson from The Smart Guy.
- Gibson Kafka, a bartender on the short-lived Birds of Prey, has eidetic memory as his metahuman ability.
- Edgar Stiles, from 24.
- Luke Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures displays the ability to remember incredibly long number sequences - in Mona Lisa's Revenge, he is explicitly stated to have an eidetic memory.
- Marshall Flinkman from Alias.
- Most Immortals on the TV series Highlander were shown as possessing total recall. Methos was the exception because of My Skull Runneth Over due to his being 5000 years old, and apparently unable to clearly remember anything before then.
- Early 00s show Push Nevada had the protagonist playing chess without a board against two convicts.
- Quantum Leap: Sam has an eidetic memory, which may derive from his Doc Savage-inspired character; this was stated in the episode "Catch A Falling Star". In the episode "Trilogy Part 3", season 5 episode 10, he also says, "I have a photographic memory," approximately two-thirds through the episode.
- Unfortunately his memories are jumbled by the time jumps, so you can never be sure in any given episode how much of his memory he can access.
- An early episode of Mission: Impossible revolves around a "guest spy" with eidetic memory, which he demonstrates by flipping through a phone book, then reciting a random page. Subsequent episodes reveal that Rollin and especially Cinnamon are able to memorize scads of information in a short span of time, but it's not implied that they have eidetic memory.
- "The Mind of Stefan Miklos" featured a KGB operative with an eidetic memory, sent to the U.S. to contact a defecting CIA agent and verify the accuracy of the information he's selling. Phelps and his team had to pull off a ridiculously complex series of con games in order to trick the guy.
- Lexie Grey from Grey's Anatomy.
- Which definitely helps in recalling obscure medical texts with even more obscure diseases and medical problems in order to diagnose patients. And she aced her residency exam. The other characters occasionally refer to her as a Lexopedia!
- Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, in ridiculous extents according to one account she gives Logan.
- Jane Seever in Life.
- Hideyuki Kagawa/Alternative Zero in Kamen Rider Ryuki had a photographic memory, which he could use to memorise (and therefore counter) attack patterns in rival Riders. However, he sees it as something of an annoyance: after catching an accidental glimpse of Shiro Kanzaki's plans, he is unable to forget about them, which, as he sees Kanzaki's plans as flawed and unethical, practically forces him to do something about it.
- Rico on Hannah Montana has a photographic memory, which explains why he skipped several grades.
- Scorpius of Farscape possesses a phenomenal memory, capable of recalling wormhole equations he saw for less than a second.
- Holmes And Yoyo: Police robot Yoyo does not only have literally photographic memory, he can even make prints of it. Push his nose and a polaroid pops out of his breast pocket. Strangely enough he does not seem able to access an image in memory, he has to print it out and look at it with his eyes even if it's just to verify that he's seen something.
- Glenn Garth Gregory, played by Laurence Luckinbill in The Delphi Bureau, could remember everything he'd ever seen.
- Olivia Dunham from Fringe. Olivia's counterpart from the alternate universe does not, however, have this talent (making it one of the ways that the two characters can be distinguished).
- Unforgettable is all about a detective who has a photographic memory. Her ability to keep replaying and reexamining a memory for previously unnoticed details is key in solving the murder in the pilot episode.
- A key element of the show is that even with her amazing memory she is not immune from Trauma-Induced Amnesia as she cannot remember the day when her sister was murdered and she found the body.
- In an amusing bit of stunt casting, Carrie's aunt, who was worried she was developing Alzheimer's, was played by Marilu Henner who is one of the rare people with the ability in real life.
- Nikita: According to Amanda, Percy has eidetic memory.
- Mike Ross of Suits remembers every word of every book he's ever read and every fact he's ever come across. Before he got into the fake lawyering gig he used to memorize tests and sell the answers. It's what got him kicked out of school.
- A few times we're shown him recalling (in black-and-white, for some reason) a scene in order to quickly notice an obscure detail he missed, such as the picture of Louis's nephew that just happened to be hanging in the Harvard admissions office when Mike came in to ask about a tour.
- Sherlock is revealed to be able to remember anything, provided he can find it in his “memory palace."
- Charles Augustus Magnussen, the villain of series three, might just have Sherlock beat. He's a professional blackmailer who can recall the "pressure point" of anyone important in a few seconds. Rather than using hard copies, he simply has all his leverage memorised and tucked away in his own mind palace.
- The same trick is used by Patrick Jane in The Mentalist; it is explicitly the result of considerable training and practice, not an innate ability.
- Olive in A.N.T. Farm has a perfect memory as her talent.
- An episode of Flashpoint revolved around a man with this ability, but who considered it Cursed with Awesome. Not only did it get him coerced by the villains of the piece into memorizing secret documents for them, but the sheer volume of memories he'd accumulated had become so overwhelming that he'd retreated into total seclusion to avoid building more of them.
- In The Bletchley Circle, Lucy is a page-at-a-glance reader capable of memorizing an entire book of facts and figures in a single sitting.
- In London's Burning, one firefighter is nicknamed "Recall" due to having a photographic memory, which he demonstrates by memorizing an entire page of a book in one reading and then reciting it.
- Kiera Cameron in Continuum has a CMR computer chip embedded in her brain that, when linked to the cameras in her eyes, is able to record everything that she sees, hears, and smells. She can later go back and review the recorded information as if she was actually experiencing it again. She can look at the images again using different wavelength filters to get new information (such as when she saw a man walking across a parking garage pulling a large trunk, she was able to go back and review it in infrared and determine that a person was tied up inside the trunk).
- 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.
- Warhammer40000 has Lukas Bastonne, a famed Sergeant of the Cadian Shock Troops. His eidetic memory allows him to recall all of his combat experiences with clarity and keep a clear image of ever-shifting battlefields, making him an excellent tactician. It also causes him to vividly remember every single solder who has ever died under his command.
- 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.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: The "Spellbook Libraries" are full of the knowledge of Light and Darkness respectively, using magical energy itself as a medium to record information. As the manager of both these "Spellbook Libraries", "Spellbook Magician of Prophecy" has stored all of their knowledge within his own brain. Because of this, he is able to manifest "Spellbook" data into physical form by himself.
- 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 necessarily 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.
- Moebius: Protagonist Malachi Rector has this trait, which apparently proves quite useful in evaluating antiques.
- Bladewolf from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, unusually for a robot, averts this. His neural network was designed to work like an organic human brain and thus has the same limitations. Bladewolf admits that he's actually worse at remembering faces than the average human.
- 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.
- Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), also known as hyperthymesia, is the talent to recall extremely specific personal (i.e. autobiographical) data. This does not extend outside of the self - so for instance, they may remember what they wore on a specific day of the week, but they wouldn't remember what was going on in the news that day unless it impacted them personally in some way. However, people who exhibit this trait also appear to exhibit symptoms of hoarding and OCD-like symptoms, and it is suggested that the actual cause for their extremely good personal recall (and their inability to recall other facts about those dates) is related - because they constantly reinforce their memories, via diary entries and keeping objects and obsession with dates, they reinforce these memories.
- Young children have very strong, short-term recall; chimpanzees may as well. It is not known why humans lose this ability, but it may be because as they develop speech and other things, they need to use their brain for things other than memorizing the world around them; it is possible that some humans with extremely good short-term recall may have never lost this ability, or have regained it via practice.
- Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic man who can take a helicopter ride over a city and draw very detailed pictures of what he saw, producing panoramas in the days after his flights. They are not "perfect", but are quite accurate, often down to the number of windows and columns visible on various buildings.