Please, no photos: Snapping pictures of an event or item may not help you remember it later, new research shows.
took 28 people on a tour of Fairfield University's Bellarmine Museum
of Art in Conn. They were asked to look at 15 different objects and take photographs of
The researchers also asked 46 subjects to look at 27
artifacts. They were instructed to examine nine of them, photograph nine others,
and photograph a particular portion of the object on another nine artifacts.
The next day the subjects were quizzed both verbally and
visually about what they saw. They remembered less about the actual object when
they photographed it than when they just stared at it.
However, those who took detailed photos remembered the whole
item better, even if the pictures did not pay attention to the other areas.
"These results show how the 'mind's eye' and the
camera's eye are not the same," lead author Linda Henkel, a psychology
researcher at Fairfield University, said in a press release.
Henkel told LiveScience that she got the idea for the study
after seeing people at the Grand Canyon snapping pictures without pausing to take
in the view.
"It occurred to me that people often whip out their cameras and cellphone
cameras to capture a moment and were doing so almost mindlessly and missing
what was happening right in front of them," she said.
Henkel believes that people experienced the "photo-taking
impairment effect" because they had counted on the technology to store the
experience, not their own mind.
"When people rely on technology to remember for them --
counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it
fully themselves -- it can have a negative impact on how well they remember
their experiences," she said in the release.
She pointed out that previous studies have shown that memory
can be jogged by looking at photos, but only if the person peruses them -- not if
they just keep the snapshots.
This particular study didn't allow people to select the
photo subjects, so that may have played a role in what they remembered. Henkel's
next study will allow the subjects to choose what they photograph.
The study was published Dec. 5 in Psychological Science.