In a recent study published by Psychological Science, scientist Linda Henkel, of Fairfield University, has demonstrated that individuals who take more pictures are more likely to forget the details of what they’re capturing with their cameras.
Henkel explains, “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”.
The study examined students who visited the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University. They were instructed to take notes on what they saw. Some of the students opted to photograph the musuem while others simply observed their surroundings.
In testing recall abilities, the students that spent most of their time taking photographs consistently demonstrated a lack of recall in what they saw the day before, in comparison to students who did not take pictures.
Henkel has coined the new term as “photo-taking impairment effect”. She explains that the reliance of technology has impacted people to the point of over-dependence. Individuals don’t feel a necessity to observe as much when they feel they can revisit a moment in pictures.
A second experiment was conducted by Henkel that validated her findings while offering up some new data.
When individuals use their cameras to zoom in and focus on a specific part of an object, their recall was far better – and not just for the part of the picture they zoomed in on, but for the surrounding out of focus area, as well.
While some individuals might argue that the pictures they take will allow them to perform the recall that the study dismisses, Henkel claims that this method of recall is usually ineffective due to the sheer number of photos people take when visiting a new place.
“In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.”
While Henkel plans to continue her research and conduct new experiments on photography and recall, she feels that the evidence is sufficient to suggest that the eyes are better than the camera at capturing memories.