Want to Remember an Event? Don’t Photograph It

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Camera phones are everywhere. But it turns out that taking pictures may actually impair your memory of the moment you're trying to capture.

Photographs may not be the best way to preserve a moment. That’s the finding of a study by psychological scientist Linda Henkel of Fairfield University.

She talked about it recently on NPR in a story called “Overexposed? Camera Phones Could Be Washing Out Our Memories.”

“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,” Henkel said in an article by the Association for Psychological Science.

Henkel’s work indicates that digital photos are actually impeding our ability to remember things. It’s similar to how smartphones have led to people forgetting phone numbers.

Henkel’s study showed that most people had a worse memory for objects and their details when they snapped a photograph of them, the Association for Psychological Science article said.

A second, similar study presented an interesting twist on Henkel’s original findings. If you zoom in and take a photo of a specific detail on an object, that can actually help preserve memory – not just for the zoomed-in detail, but for the rest of the object that remained out of the frame.

Henkel is researching how the content of a photo, like whether or not the photo taker is in it, impacts memory.

I love taking photos, but I am guilty of taking too many pictures. I find that I sometimes miss a great moment because I’m too busy trying to capture it on camera. This is a good reminder for me to put down my camera and live in the moment, relying on my memory.

Has your experience with digital photography supported Henkel’s findings? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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