Thursday, 29 May 2014

The year I lost eidetic memory was the year I became creative

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I was always very good at exams - the best in my non-selective school - heavily reliant on a strong eidetic/ literal/ photographic memory; and this continued for my first year at medical college where I gained a Distinction.

In my second year - aged 19-20 - at some point the eidetic memory went. I realized it at the time, and indeed, for a while, my exam results suffered a bit - I dropped out of the top ten.

I went from the eidetic memory typical of childhood to the 'semantic' - meaning-based, memory of adulthood. Once I had changed my learning strategy, my exam results improved again - and I graduated near the top of the class.

But I have only just noticed that this eidetic/ semantic shift was exactly the time when I began seriously to do 'creative writing' (although I never attained any competence at it) - for example I worked fairly hard at writing a play which I submitted to a competition.

It strikes me that this is probably a reason why children are seldom (if ever) really creative - and why eidetic memory savants are not creative.

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4 comments:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Is eidetic memory really "typical" of childhood? I thought that only a small percentage of children ever had it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Well, that's what it says in the Psychology 101 textbooks - I've never looked at the primary literature.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

According to this abstract (linked to by the Wikipedia article on eidetic memory), "Eidetic images are only available to a small percentage of children 6–12 years old, and are virtually nonexistent in adults." I certainly never had an eidetic memory.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Well, that is imagery. Children blot-up (vast amounts of) information without understanding it - that is 'eidetic'; at a certain point the information is not blotted-up anymore, and only gets remembered when it is 'understood (semantic/ meaning categories).