Thursday, November 24, 2011

Are You a Sophomore at MIT? and Photographic Memory

The funniest exchange my fourteen year old had at MIT ESP Splash last weekend was a conversation with an MIT freshman.

My son was stopped in the hall by a lost MIT student. He asked if my son was a sophomore there. The young man said he needed to find a certain building and was a freshman student and was lost.

My son laughed and said, no! He was just a freshman in high school, and that he was there for MIT ESP Splash. He asked what building he wanted.

The MIT student told him where he wanted to go and said he never heard of Splash. My son told him how to get there and told him what Splash was.

The MIT student was surprised and said he couldn't believe how my son knew where to go. My son said it was his third time at Splash and he'd learned where many of the buildings were.

My son has a photographic memory with a strong visual spatial sense. He instantly memorizes what he sees in 3D and he can see the image and rotate it around to view it from different angles. When he has a printed map he uses it just a bit to find his way around but often it is committed to memory after one use and he can pull up a snapshot of the printed map in his mind as well as pulling up any visual image he has seen in real life such as what the exterior of the building looked like and other details that would never be on a printed map. He can compare the map image to his memory to find what he needs. Once he has a real life view the map image is of secondary priority for his use.

When my son was ten years old, we visited Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, an amusement park. It was his first time riding serious roller coasters. Due to his height he was able to go on all the rides, and he and I went on them together. (I am also a roller coaster lover.)

That night before bed my son started talking about the roller coasters. He said he was playing back the "video" in his head to help him unwind to go to sleep. I asked what he meant. He said that he had memorized the ride including such things as when ascending for the loop he saw just below was a food stand selling cotton candy, so forth and so on. Keep in mind this was a ride that went in excess of 70 mph and he was able to see and remember everything. I was so thrilled by the ride that I was not even seeing what was whizzing by, I was too busy experiencing the emotion and the sensation of the ride, and other times my eyes were closed so I'd not have seen what went by anyway!

(So far my son does not seem to have a photographic memory for text words. Memorization and recall would certainly be easier if he could pull up images of textbooks, books, and flashcards.)

My son was chuckling over the idea that he was mistaken for a college sophomore. He has been growing tall and does look like a young man, but he didn't think he looked 19 or 20!


Xa Lynn said...

Your son might not have a photographic memory for words on a page, but with his memory for places, he could probably use the memory palace technique far better than I can!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Xa Lynn

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Too funny! My 10-year old daughter has a gift for that type of memorization, too - and I believe the Lord has in mind for her to use it with art somehow. Would that it would transfer to text - that is very tricky for her - but we've been finding techniques that help.

dstb said...

So, you did go to Splash. I had wondered if you would. The timing certainly works for seeing your family around Thanksgiving.

Did I see you at the rest area on the Mass Pike near Framingham on Sunday night? I was going to approach the woman I thought was you, but we were dealing with a kid that wasn't feeling great.

Hope the boys enjoyed their classes. My boys did.


ChristineMM said...

Yes dtsb I was at that rest stop with my husband and two kids for a quick stop for dinner for them and water from the convience store.