There are people out there who never have to study for tests, who remember exactly what was said in the last argument they had, and who can recite pages from books after only reading them once. Usually we’d say they have “photographic memory” but there’s a fancier way of expressing the idea and it’s this week’s Wacky Word Wednesday: hypermnesia.
The condition of having an unusually vivid or precise memory.
With hypermnesia, you’d never get below an “A” in any class you took, you’d never miss another birthday or anniversary, and you’d never be late to work because you couldn’t find your keys. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, you’re in luck because supposedly hypermnesia can be induced through hypnosis, epileptic seizures, or the use of some psychotropic drugs. But these options can only cause short-term hypermnesia and it certainly seems extreme to have a seizure every time you have to take a test. Fortunately, psychologists offer a fourth, long-term option: come down with a bad case of mania. But mania is a psychiatric disorder, you say. Indeed, but according to psychologists, so is hypermnesia.
There’s a dark side to this seeming superpower. Sufferers of hypermnesia find themselves overcome by their photographic memories. All of the unimportant things that normally functioning people forget over the course of their days and lives are locked in the hypermnesiacs’ minds forever, making it hard for them to learn new things or make new friends.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes long-lasting hypermnesia, but they think it might have something to do with lateralization, which is how the different sides of our brains handle different responsibilities. The right and left sides of brains of people with hypermnesia seem to work together and share tasks differently. Perhaps, as scientists’ understanding of the human brain increases, we might one day be able to turn hypermnesia on and off.
As usual, here are a few example sentences putting our wacky word into action:
- Tanny’s hypermnesia allowed her to remember that her apple was 3 weeks, 2 days, 3 hours, and 20 minutes off the tree.
- If it weren’t for my hypermnesia, I never would have remembered that today was my wife’s birthday.
Well, that’s it for this Wacky Word Wednesday. Join us next week for another exciting edition!
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