We take pictures so we can remember it later, and we are certainly taking more photos now than ever before, but a Fairfield University study suggests that all our photo taking is contributing to an inability to remember the things we see. Say what? The study found that if we simply take photos of things, we are less likely to remember any details or where the things are.
The study participants were taken to a museum, where some took photos of exhibits while others looked at them with their own eyes. All participants were asked to recall what they saw the next day. “If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them,” said Fairfield University’s Dr. Linda Henkel, who led the study.
However, if the camera user focuses in on a particular area of the object, “their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired.” On the flip side, the folks who took “whole” photos now have a visual record.
“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,” Henkel said, who is conducting further research on this topic.
So, to keep your memory sharp, put down the camera for a minute and observe what you’re seeing before you snap the photo. For museum goers, set aside extra time to wander the exhibits with your own eyes, and then go back and take photos of the stuff you remembered.