Didactic memory, also known as eidetic memory, refers to the ability to recall vivid details of an image briefly after seeing it. Discover how it differs from long-term photographic memory.

Experts consider eidetic memory a rare occurrence that typically appears in young children. As people age, they tend to lose their ability to remember an image shortly after seeing it due to less reliance on visual memory. Newly gained forms of memory and memory devices also contribute to this loss.

Didactic memory does not translate into vivid, long-term memory. Instead, it’s a form of short-term memory. After a long period of time, a person will remember only small amounts of information about an image or other information.

Didactic, or eidetic, memory is a type of short-term memory where a person can recall a large number of details about an image for a brief period following exposure.

Experts speculate that about 2% to 10% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 develop eidetic memory. They speculate that advanced verbal language skills and language acquisition allow older children to think more abstractly, removing their need to learn visually.

Some speculate that a difference in the excitatory and inhibitory balance of neurons in the brain at a young age may contribute to its development. Excitatory and inhibitory neurons help control message signals in the brain.

Older children, adolescents, and adults generally do not have eidetic memory. However, the case report mentioned above suggests that seizures may lead to changes in the brain that may cause a person to develop eidetic memory.

Examples of eidetic memory

Some examples of eidetic memory may include:

  • ability to recreate or describe an image in great detail for a brief period after seeing the image
  • being able to describe the layout of a playground, town, or other area after viewing it once
  • being able to recall which image you were shown a few minutes after seeing it in a group of other images

Photographic memory and eidetic memory often get interchanged in meaning and use. Although both refer to the ability to recall highly detailed information about an image, there’s a slight distinction.

Photographic memory is considered a type of long-term memory, meaning a person stores highly detailed information for a long period of time and can recall the image with vivid detail sometime later.

Eidetic memory is a type of short-term memory, meaning that once the brain stores it as a long-term memory, details tend to become less defined.

Photographic memory is also somewhat controversial in scientific literature.

According to an older study from 2008, long-term memory generally only stores a small amount of information about an image. The study further suggests that experiences can skew a person’s memory.

No scientific data has proven that a person has a photographic memory.

People with seemingly superior memory often utilize a combination of different memory strategies and techniques, including:

  • eidetic imagery
  • keen attention to detail
  • highly practiced mnemonic strategies
  • synesthesia (experiencing one sense through another)

Some people may also have another rare type of long-term memory known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). People with this type of memory can remember several specific details about their lives and experiences, including specific dates and other seemingly minute details.

People with HSAM do not rely on mnemonic devices or other tricks to remember the details.

Eidetic memory does not typically last into adulthood. Though some claim to have a photographic memory, no documented cases exist in scientific literature.

There’s no way to improve eidetic memory, but you can take steps to help improve your memory. Some tips to help improve memory include:

  • Use mnemonic devices.
  • Try learning a new skill, such as an instrument, dance, or hobby.
  • Repeat an activity or new information to help make it easier to retrieve.
  • Try utilizing more of your senses.
  • Take time to exercise your brain with puzzles and trying to remember information before seeking information elsewhere, such as searching the internet.
  • Stay active through exercise or physical activities.
  • Get enough sleep per night, aiming for between 7 to 9 hours As an adult and more for children and teens.
  • Take steps to stay organized, such as writing lists and keeping your desk, drawers, and other areas tidy.
  • Try to eat a balanced diet that emphasizes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Try to reduce your intake of added sugar, processed foods, and high fat foods.
  • Take steps to manage chronic stress.
  • Keep an active social schedule to help reduce memory decline.

Drinking more water throughout the day can also improve your cognitive performance. Research from 2012 suggests that even mild dehydration can reduce your attention and working memory.

Additionally, a large 2022 study states that obesity and higher BMI are linked to reduced memory in older individuals. Taking steps to manage your weight may support positive changes in your memory as you age.

Even taking these steps may not improve memory in all people. If you feel like you can no longer remember as well as you used to, you may want to speak with a doctor. They can help you determine if an underlying cause may be responsible for your memory issues.

Didactic, or eidetic, memory is the ability to recall great details of an image for a short period of time following exposure to the image. It’s a type of rare, short-term memory often found in children.

As you age, you’re more likely to lose the ability, possibly due to changes in neurons or the development of higher language capabilities.

Eidetic memory shares some common characteristics with photographic memory. However, photographic memory is long-term and not scientifically proven.

Some people may have HSAM or the ability to recall personal life events in great detail. Others with good memories often use a combination of learned devices and tricks to help them remember large amounts of information.

You cannot improve eidetic memory, but you can take steps to potentially improve your overall memory and ability to recall certain details.