Taking Photos Can Impede Memory

In a world where social media reigns, it’s common to see our generation snapping photos of everything from snowfall over Gasson to selfies in the bathroom. However, despite the number of likes we might get on Instagram, this practice of constantly taking pictures may actually have negative consequences.

According to a study by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University, people tend to have worse recall for certain objects after taking photographs. The study took undergraduate students from Fairfield University to an art museum and asked them to evaluate certain items in the exhibit by either taking photographs or merely looking at them. In memory tests the following day, researchers found that the students who photographed the artifacts had trouble recognizing the pieces they had seen the day before, and the pieces they did know, they remembered in far less detail.

Henkel believes that this occurs because people depend on technology to “remember for them” and don’t devote as much attention to the current experience.

Another study found similar results when participants had to photograph a particular detail, not just the object itself. The study found that people tend to have a better memory for the entire object, even parts that were not in view of the photograph. The idea here is that participants examined the whole object and then focused on a particular detail.

Henkel argues that the biggest issue with the current trend in digital culture is the huge quantity of photographs taken; photographs are often taken and forgotten amidst thousands of other photos in digital space. “In order to remember,” says Henkel, “we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.”

These findings may be crucial for college students who are particularly keen on taking photographs. Whether it’s cheering on the team at the biggest football game of the season, sledding on lunch trays during the first snowfall, or enjoying a night out in Boston with friends, sometimes it’s more important to put down the camera and live in the moment.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Year: 2017
Loves her dog and looking for new places to travel.