Taking a picture to help
you remember something might end up having the opposite effect, according to
research published in the United States.
A study released this week
showed that people who took photographs of items during a museum tour were less
likely to remember details than those who merely looked at the objects.
That is a lesson for a
world growing accustomed to instant photo-sharing on Facebook, Twitter and
other social networks, said psychological scientist Linda Henkel of Fairfield
"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," said Henkel, author
of the study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science.
Henkel set up an experiment
in the university's museum, in which students were led on a tour and were asked
to take note of certain objects, either by photographing them or by simply
The next day, their memory
for the objects was tested – and participants were less accurate in
recognising the items they had photographed compared to those they had only
Henkel called 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 said in a
A second group offered a
slight variation on the findings: those 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.
Over-abundance of pictures
"These results show
how the 'mind's eye' and the camera's eye are not the same," Henkel said,
adding that memory research indicates taking pictures can help people remember
but only if they take time to observe and review.
An over-abundance of pictures
might make that harder.
suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organisation of digital photos for
personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about
them," Henkel said.
"To remember, we have
to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them."
Picture: Photos from Shutterstock