Does taking pictures help us remember things?
Taking photos can help us remember certain things but if we are completely reliant on them it can also impair and spoil our memories.
Asked by: Rachel Lawson, Leicester
Sometimes, but it can also do the opposite. Photography can spoil our memories if we rely on having pictures to take home instead of enjoying life as it happens.
Tourists who hold their phones or cameras up all day cannot look properly at the sights, let alone engage deeply with people and emotions. A specific ‘photo-taking-impairment effect’ was recently discovered when students photographed 15 objects in a museum and just looked at 15 others. They remembered less detail of the photographed items. However, the effect was fragile. If they zoomed in on specified areas of the objects, they recalled more details not fewer, even recalling details that were not in the photos.
Indeed, photographs can help memory in other ways. Concentrating while choosing a shot requires attention which in turn aids memory. And looking at photos later helps us remember more about the context and the events we chose to record.
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