chapter  6
12 Pages

Experts and Professional Mnemonists

Although empirical examination of individuals with exceptional memory skills dates back to the 19th century (Brown & Deffenbacher, 1975; Wilding & Valentine, 1997), Luria’s (1968) study of S. was the first to garner widespread attention. S. was a curious case partly because he had no awareness of his special abilities until his late 20s when an employer suggested that psychological researchers should study his memory ability. Furthermore, other than his unusual cognitive abilities, S. was, for the most part, functionally average or slightly below average. His family life was typical-he was married and had a son who was later successful, yet he drifted from job to job without ever establishing a stable career (except for that as a mnemonist). In this regard, Luria described S. as “anchorless”

in that he lived his life always in anticipation of a future event that would alter the course of his existence.