Does a Better Memory Mean Smarter?

A few months back I wrote a few posts about IQ and intelligence. Recently I came across this article and felt I needed to write a follow up post.


I have thought about this for a while as to what does it mean to be intelligent or super intelligent or have a IQ of 185? I think that term gets thrown around a lot sometimes and not necessarily looked at in depth. The above article talks about different theories about how we access and make new memories. It is pretty interesting and a quick read.

I am not necessarily as interested in the theories of how we make new memories although it is something new to think about, what I do want to talk about is memory and how it may play a role in intelligence. I took psychology in college so I am more or less an expert right? I’m just kidding, I would argue that those who claim to be experts know just slightly more than you or I as this is such a broad field and from what I have gathered there is so much we don’t know and so much we don’t know we don’t know.

You have to take this with a grain of salt, because I know very little about the subject but something dawned on me after watching a 60 Minutes episode a few years ago and then reading this article refreshed it in my mind. The episode was about people with photographic memories (Eidetc Memory) but there is also Hyperthymesia, which upon doing a little research it seems these are different things. Learning is fun! A Photographic memory has only to do with visual personal memory, whereas Hyperthymesia has to do with the exceptional ability to relay facts not necessary about one’s life as with the photographic memory. That is what I gathered from my quick research.

This kind of changes my point I was going to talk about. Originally I was going to say something like those that are smarter than normal, like the top 1% or so, do they just have a better memory? My logic was that if you could remember everything you have ever learnt (this drove me crazy in the article, apparently learnt and learned are the same thing and interchangeable) then you would presumably appear smarter because  you could recall everything you have learned. Makes sense, right? Think about all the knowledge you have forgotten from grade school, high school, and even college. Now imagine if you could readily recall all those facts, concepts, and figures. I liken this to Will Hunting from the movie Good Will Hunting. In the movie he basically has what I think is a photographic memory, yes I know it is a movie. I guess what I am trying to understand is that is Will really that smart or can he just remember everything he reads so he can recall that specific bit of information when it is needed? On the flip side I would also think that he was able to understand what he was reading as well, he would have to to be able to do the complex mathematics he was doing in the movie.

Now, I know there are people out there that are very smart and can pick up new concepts and master them quickly and efficiently. How would you be able to discern the difference between someone who is truly a genius or someone who has an excellent memory and can just recall the facts they have learned. I would also argue that in a roundabout way they are more or less the same. The genius will have to use his memory looking back at what they learned to figure out the task at hand so will the person with a photographic memory.

I guess the only way to really figure out who is smarter is to give them a problem that neither has seen before and see if they can both figure it out. All things being equal they should both be able to figure it out, but I doubt that will be the case. As you can tell I am out of my element here as I know next to nothing about how the brain works.

The point I am trying to make is that I know people talk a lot about IQ and how smart someone is, but what is it really? I wonder if there is someone who has a average IQ but has a photographic memory and can figure out problems that a normal person should not be able to figure out. This is sort of a paradox in my opinion. How can you tell if someone is really that smart or are they just bringing up the things in their memory that will help them solve the task at hand?

In other news I clicked on an add the other day that was advertising this revolutionary new pill that helped this bum off the street get smarter raising his IQ and all this other malarkey. Obviously I was skeptical, but I read reviews about this pill. If I can take something to make me smarter I am all for it why not? After reading some reviews I found that the pill, and I have forgot the name of it, that there is some evidence that ginseng panax can help improve certain cognitive functions. With that being said I did not see anything that said it will make you a genius overnight, but I did find that it can help with improving thinking, concentration, memory and work efficiency according to Webmd. The cool think is that this supplement is only like $6 a bottle for like 100 tablets, as opposed to like $45 for 30 tablets the add was charging.

Because this is so cheap I think I many try to experiment with taking this and see if I notice any difference. Also I didn’t really see any side effects as ginseng is a natural spice so I think this is relatively safe. Honestly I think I am opening a whole new can of worms, one that involves a great deal of theories about how the mind works. Stay tuned, next time I leave a post I might be a genius… I doubt it!


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