Author – Alexsander Luria
Translation from original Russian - Valiko
The beginning of this episode can be dated back to the twenties of this century. To the laboratory of the author – then only a young psychologist – came a person and asked to test his memory. The person – we will call him S. – was a reporter for one of thenewspapers, and the editor of the department of the newspaper was the initiator behind his coming to the laboratory.
As always, in the morning the editor of the department gave his contributors instructions; he went through a list of places to where they were supposed to go and named what they were supposed to find out in each place. S. was among the collaborators who received instructions. Thelist of addresses and instructions was fairly long and the editor, with great surprise noticed that S. had not written down any instructions on paper. The editor was ready to reprimand the inattentive subordinate, but S. on his request repeated everything exactly that he was assigned to do. The editor tried to find out more closely about what was the matter and began to ask S. questions about hismemory, but the latter expressed his puzzlement: is it that he remembered everything that was said to him so extraordinary? do not other people do the same thing? The fact that he possessed some sort of exceptional memory, which contrasted him with other people, remained to him unnoticed.
The editor sent him to the psychological laboratory for the investigation of memory – and now he sat beforeme. He was at that time no less than thirty years of age. His father had been an owner of a bookshop, his mother, although had not received a higher education was a well-read and polite woman. He had many brothers and sisters – all were ordinary, even-minded, sometimes gifted people; there were no instances of any mental disease in the family. S. himself grew up in a little place, attended school;but then his aptitude for music was discovered and he entered a musical institute; he was to become a violinist, but after his disease of the ear his hearing became lower and he saw that he would meet with little success preparing for a career as a musician. For some time he sought for something he could take up and chance brought him to the gazette, where he began to work as a reporter. He didnot have a clear line of life and his plans were somewhat vague. He gave an impression of a somewhat delayed, sometimes shy person, who was perplexed by the given instruction. As was already said, he saw in himself no exceptionalities and could not imagine that his memory somehow differed from the memory of those around him. He with some embarrassment gave me the editor’s request and withcuriousness awaited what the investigation might give if it was undertaken. This is how our acquaintance began, which lasted for almost thirty years, filled with tests, conversations, and letters.
I proceeded with investigating S. with an ordinary for a psychologist curiosity, but without great hope that the experiments with give something notable. However even the first tests changed my attitude andgave rise to a state of confusion and perplexity, and this time not in the subject, but in the experimenter. I offered S. lines (rows) of words, then numbers, then letters that I read aloud slowly or presented in printed form. He attentively listened to a row or read it and in exact order repeated the presented material. I increased the number of presented elements to him, giving 30, 50, 70 words ornumbers – this did not produce any difficulties. S. did not require any study time and if I presented to him a row of words or numbers, he read them slowly and distinctly, he attentively listened and sometimes requested to stop or repeat a word with more clarity, sometimes doubting if he heard the word correctly, re-asked about it. Usually during the time of the experiment he closed his eyes or...