According to psychological study, taking photographs weakens memory


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Do you remember the time you had to know telephone numbers and so much additional information by heart? It’s not so long ago, but it seems to me like it was in another life. Who knows in this day and age telephone numbers of his 10 best friends by heart? In the 21th Century we rely on technology to save and store information for us so much that our memory, like a seldom used muscle, falls prey to atrophy and with time performs ever more poorly. This however is not the only reason why without technical aids we have an increasingly hard time remembering important events in our life. Part of it is because we are rarely 100% in the moment. It is common knowledge that humans are bad at multitaskng, even though many believe they are quite good. If you want to be able to remember something later on, you must not do something else at the same time, like taking photos. This weakness of memory, which occurs when you take photos, already has a name. Dr. Linda Henkel, of the Fairfield University, Connecticut, who has conducted the study, named it the “photo-taking impairment effect”.

What was the study about? Two groups of students were sent on a tour of the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University. The first were instructed to focus on the exhibits and to try to memorize them, while the second had to take photos of the exhibits. On the next day, members of both groups underwent memory testing, with the outcome that the members of the photo-taking group had a much harder time recalling details about the exhibits.

Before we bin those Alzheimer’s inducing cameras, one thing needs to be said: another study arrived at the conclusion that focused photography, which is when you observe the subject carefully and “zoom in” on the details (this means the opposite of “point and shoot”), has no negative effect on our memory. It also helps if you take the time to view your photos later on your PC, sort them out and process them.

It is essential to expose yourself to the photos, the situation at the time of capture and the subject for a somewhat longer period of time.

Nevertheless, if you want to be sure to remember a special, singular moment later on, it’s best to devote oneself with heart and soul to that moment and leave photography to someone else, a professional photographer for example. They, too, have to earn a living. 😉

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