One of my favorite shows on television right now is "Criminal Minds", a show which features the behavioral analysis unit at the FBI. This group of agents specializes in making psychological profiles of serial killers and helping to hunt them down. One of the characters on the show is Dr. Spencer Reid, a genius in his mid-twenties with amazing mental capabilities. To catch of glimpse of what Dr. Reid is like, here's a clip from the series premiere of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qMKGuel6OQ
The kind of intelligence that Reid possesses is impressive, and it is a major factor in the show. However, there are also several discrepancies in it. Reid states in several episodes he does not have a photographic memory; rather, he claims to have an eidetic memory. He is able to recite back entire conversations word-for-word. It is stated in the above clip that he can read 20,000 words a minute (more on that later), but he can also remember everything he reads and discuss it with other people. However, our textbook defines eidetic memory as another name for "photographic memory." It strictly deals with iconic memory, and it is stated in the book that it is exceedingly rare in adults. But it is very clear that Reid has not only a remarkably impressive iconic memory, but also an impressive echoic memory. He attempts to use the word "eidetic" to account for both of these proficiencies, but in reality it is an incorrect term. His memory is quite remarkable, because it would appear as though he can commit almost any noise or image to long-term memory. Our iconic memory has an incredibly short duration (about half a second), so it is quite unbelievable that Reid is able to encode so many images into his long-term memory without much rehearsal. Reid also says he can read 20,000 words a minute. Our textbook states that the average college student reads 200-300 words a minute, so obviously Reid's capabilities are beyond the level of extreme. Studies have also determined that reading at 400 words a minute or more results in comprehension rates of less than 50 percent. However, it is obvious that Reid does not suffer from a decreased comprehension rate. In fact, his impressive iconic memory allows him to read huge amounts of text and spit back everything he has read.
It is clear that Reid does not have an exclusively eidetic memory as he so often states. Instead, it would appear as though he has an extremely strong iconic and echoic memory. In fact, it appears as though Reid's true gift is his incredible proficiency at encoding information into his long term memory. Reid's intelligence is obviously quite unbelievable, especially his ability to speed read, but it does make for good television and unfortunately, that's all that really matters.