Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

No pictures, please: Taking photos may impede memory of museum tour

Date:
December 9, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Visit a museum these days and you'll see people using their smartphones and cameras to take pictures of works of art, archeological finds, historical artifacts, and any other object that strikes their fancy. While taking a picture might seem like a good way to preserve the moment, new research published suggests that museum-goers may want to put their cameras down.

Visit a museum these days and you'll see people using their smartphones and cameras to take pictures of works of art, archeological finds, historical artifacts, and any other object that strikes their fancy. While taking a picture might seem like a good way to preserve the moment, new research suggests that museum-goers may want to put their cameras down.

Related Articles


In a new study, psychological scientist Linda Henkel of Fairfield University presents data showing that participants had worse memory for objects, and for specific object details, when they took photos of them. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Henkel was inspired to conduct the research in part because of her own experiences.

"People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly to capture a moment, to the point that they are missing what is happening right in front of them," says Henkel.

This led her to wonder about the extent to which capturing life events with a camera shapes what we later remember.

To find out, she set up an experiment in the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University. Undergraduates were led on a tour around the museum and were asked to take note of certain objects, either by photographing them or by simply observing them. The next day, their memory for the objects was tested.

The data showed that participants were less accurate in recognizing the objects they had photographed compared to those they had only observed. Furthermore, they weren't able to answer as many questions about the objects' visual details for those objects they had photographed.

Henkel calls this the "photo-taking impairment effect":

"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 explains.

A second study replicated these findings, but it also presented an interesting twist: Taking a photograph of a specific detail on the object by zooming in on it with the camera seemed to preserve memory for the object, not just for the part that was zoomed in on but also for the part that was out of frame.

"These results show how the 'mind's eye' and the camera's eye are not the same," says Henkel.

Henkel's lab is currently investigating whether the content of a photo, such as whether you are in it, affects later memory. She also wonders whether actively choosing what to photograph might influence what we remember.

"This study was carefully controlled, so participants were directed to take pictures of particular objects and not others," says Henkel, "but in everyday life people take photos of things that are important to them, that are meaningful, that they want to remember."

Most museum-goers would probably argue that they take pictures so that they're able to look at them later. Doesn't reviewing the photos we've taken help us to remember?

Memory research suggests that it would, but only if we actually took the time to do it:

"Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them," says Henkel. "In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. A. Henkel. Point-and-Shoot Memories: The Influence of Taking Photos on Memory for a Museum Tour. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613504438

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "No pictures, please: Taking photos may impede memory of museum tour." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209092451.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, December 9). No pictures, please: Taking photos may impede memory of museum tour. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209092451.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "No pictures, please: Taking photos may impede memory of museum tour." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131209092451.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins