Photographic Memory

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"My mind works like Google Images."

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 two 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 and constant "rehearsal".

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.

Examples of Photographic Memory include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 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.
    • Kimbley 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 To Aru Majutsu no 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. He memorizes a massive page of computer code by looking at it once, destroys it, and comments it was easy.
  • 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.
  • Breo from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. 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.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Barbara Gordon, the former first Batgirl and current Oracle in The DCU. This notably backfired for her, as she remembers every detail of her getting shot and paralyzed by the Joker.
    • Batman himself as well. In some versions, the reason he's still so tormented by the deaths of his parents is because he vividly remembers the details of the murder and relives it in his nightmares whenever he sleeps, which is why he doesn't sleep so much.
  • 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.
    • IIRC Bart's ability is limited to perfectly recalling what he reads. Or at least we're never shown examples of him photographically remembering something he hasn't read.
    • It's a lot less useful than one would think, as he's often in his own little world.
  • 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 extremly weird one. He can transfer parts of his short term memory to his long term memory, getting a similar effect.
    • Other members of the X-Men includes Wolverine (sometimes) and all of his related mutants (X-23, Daken, etc), and Cyclops, depending on the writer.
  • Grunge from Gen 13.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
    • He's had that power since long before Infinite Crisis. One of his Kryptonian powers is a 'computer-like' brain. It doesn't make him a genius thinker (else Lex Luthor would be in trouble), but he can memorize and recall vast amounts of data perfectly and perform complex calculations in milliseconds. In the Superman animated series it's apparently the reason why he was the top student in high school despite his penchant for daydreaming in class.
    • To clarify, it's a power he possessed in the Silver Age and Bronze Age, loses Post-Crisis and regains after Infinite Crisis (specifically, after 52 when he actually regains his powers.)
    • In Final Crisis, he's able to constuct a replica of the Miracle Machine after glimpsing it (using X-Ray Vision and such to see its insides, of course) for a second.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • Doug Sangnoir of Drunkard's Walk occasionally notes that he has a "partial eidetic" memory, apparently as a result of the neurological mutations which also contribute to his superhuman intelligence and physical speed. Exactly what that means besides being a plot convenience is unclear.


Film[edit | hide]

  • "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 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. This Chekhov's Skill 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 the Voyage Home 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.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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 & 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bean from Ender's Game 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.
  • 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.
  • Ollivanders in Harry Potter, at least in everything concerning wands.
    • Strangely, the pensieve gives the benefit of this trait to anybody. 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.
  • In a bout of Fridge Logic it occured to me that Ciaphas Cain has a photographic memory. While it may not be perfect, he is recording events, including trivial conversations, decades, if not a hundred years after the fact.
  • Max Jones of Robert Heinlein's 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • 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".
  • Mozzie, from White Collar. He calls it "perfect recall."
  • This is the premise of Sherlock, obviously.
  • The X-Files: Fox Mulder claimed to have an Eidetic memory.
  • Adrian Monk, from Monk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!

  • Commander Susan Ivanova, on Babylon 5, claimed to have eidetic memory. She recalled a once-heard Minbari phrase perfectly, despite not speaking the language at the time she heard it.
    • 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 for the time travel thing, and the fact he's never mentioned it.
    • Sylar used Charlie's ability in one of the comics. He kills a truck driver, and then reads and memorizes the manual in order to drive it.
    • Although they never said the words photographic or eidetic, and what we saw indicated it was more of an "extraordinary memory for details" as well as enhanced learning.
      • Enhanced learning and the ability to intuitively understand how anything works. That seems like overkill...awesome overkill, but overkill nonetheless. Overkill.
    • The writers said that the virus Sylar got at the beginning of volume/season two completely removed his abilities apart from his original power and telekinesis causing him to start from scratch when he is cured at the end of volume/season 2.
      • Wait, if the virus was an inhibitor that was later cured by the blood of a person with a healing factor, then why wouldn't he simply revert to what he was like before being infected? And if it permanently robs him of accumulated powers than why didn't he lose his telekinesis? Argh.
        • It is apparently due to Sylar having the same power as Peter (he stole Intuitive Understanding from his father this way), but like Peter he only permanently absorbs abilities from people whom he feels a deep emotional connection with. Peter is a sensitive person so he retains lots of abilities. Sylar is a sociopath, so he only retained telekinesis because it was from the only time he felt guilty for killing the one who possessed it. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but that was the explanation.
    • It isn't eidetic. She learned a language by reading a phrasebook. If she had eidetic memory, she'd still have to mentally look up every phrase, and would be no better off than simply using the book.
      • Physically thumbing through a phrasebook can take several seconds to several minutes, depending on one's ability to find what they want to say and the book's organization. Mentally "looking up" a phrase takes less than a second, and any intelligent person can parse a sentence or two for subjects, objects, and verbs and switch them around to make a new sentence (after all, we're only shown that she managed to surprise Hiro by telling him he's sweet, which is an incredibly simple sentence in either language; once the basic rules of a language are established, it's largely a matter of vocabulary building and practice - and with an eidetic memory to recall lists of vocabulary words, her ability to become functional, if not fluent, would be several times faster than your average person).
  • 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.
  • 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 Twenty Four.
  • Both Zoe Heriot and Melanie Bush from the original series of Doctor Who. Luke Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures displays the ability to remember incredibly long number sequences.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nikita: According to Amanda, Percy has eidetic memory.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • 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[1] cannot do either).
  • The Touhou series has Hieda no Akyu, a character created for the Perfect Memento in Strict Sense official Touhou fanbook. She has the ability to remember everything she sees, which is quite a lot considering how she's lived for over a thousand years through Reincarnation, with each incarnation retaining the memories of the previous one. She serves as Gensokyo's historian, with Perfect Memento being the latest edition of her records.
  • 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.


Visual Novels[edit | hide]

  • 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.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • In Mutants and 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.


Theater[edit | hide]


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • 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.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • 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 Super-Hero 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."


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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, to being able to literally recognise a duplicate of an image she saw for less than a second. (Mind you, on another occasion she totally forgets her own birthday.)
  • In Spider-Man: 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 (comics) 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.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  1. any animal that isn't a sponge or the amoeba-like Trichoplax