Exceptional memory

Posits that (1) normal adults with modest amounts of practice can achieve memory performance that equals the recorded performance of people with exceptional memories, (2) the cognitive structures and processes acquired through practice can account for exceptional and expert memory, and (3) all normal adults exhibit skilled and exceptional memory in a domain where they are experts. One undergraduate was administered a digit span task for 1 hr/day, 3–5 times/week, for 20 mo. His digit span steadily improved from 7 to approximately 80 digits. Several other Ss were assessed to determine how information was stored in order to compare them to individuals with exceptional memory. Ss recalled digits in many different matrix patterns. Normal Ss took longer than the trained S and the exceptional Ss to study the matrices. There were no significant time differences between the Ss in ability to retrieve the memorized digits in different orders. Ss retrieved the entire matrix row by row as fast as they retrieved single columns. The trained S reported memorizing the digits using mnemonic associations. It is concluded that there are common components that are characteristic of exceptional memory: prior experience and practice, availability of meaningful associations, and storage and efficient retrieval of information from long-term memory.