How well do you remember yesterday? Do you remember what you wore, what you ate, or what you watched on television? If you’re like most people, you do. But do you remember what you wore, ate or watched on TV on the third Wednesday of January, six years ago? Probably not. But one woman can.
Marilu Henner, star of the hit 1970’s television show Taxi, has what is known as hyperthymesia, or a “perfect memory.” It is a condition that affects only a small percentage of the population, and causes an individual to have an almost superhuman autobiographical memory.
Henner, along with the other twenty five individuals who are confirmed to have hyperthymesia, describe remembering past events that happened decades ago as something they just “see.” It’s almost as though they were watching a movie of that day.
Imagine remembering a random day in your past, as though you were transported there yourself, in complete and total detail. It sounds almost impossible, but for those few who live with this condition, it isn’t. While some enjoy impressing their friends or winning trivia games with their accurate memories, others feel trapped and unable to escape the past.
It’s easy to see how a great memory would help in everyday life situations. Never missing an appointment, remembering the names of everyone you meet, and being able to recall critical details at the drop of a hat could certainly make life easier. Higher education would become effortless, and in many fields, a superior memory would make you an excellent candidate for career advancement. But could having a perfect memory be a burden? The inability to dismiss negative experiences from your mind, or recalling painful events as though they occurred yesterday could quickly become overwhelming. It even has the potential to create psychological issues like severe anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.
What do you think? Is a superior autobiographical memory a help, or a hindrance? Would you want to be able to remember every day of your past in perfect detail?