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Will taking a photograph help you to remember?

March 12, 2020 March 2020 No Comments

Do you come back from holiday with your camera loaded with photographs?

You will remember everything, right?


Research says that sometimes taking a photograph makes it harder to remember a great view or experience.

Why is this?

Is it because we give less attention to an experience if it is safely stored in a photograph?

Recent research from the University of California shows that the photographer’s memory will suffer whether they expect to keep the photograph or not.

Here’s what they did:

University students were asked to study paintings in a museum.

Some took photographs of the paintings with half deleting them straight away and the others saving them. Other students simply studied the paintings.

After a 10-minute delay, all the students took a multi-choice test. Read more

Why photographs don’t always help you:

The students who simply looked at the paintings remembered far more than the photographers, whether they expected to keep the photographs or not.

The results suggest poorer memory isn’t because of relying on the photograph for later recall.

It comes back to paying attention.

Using a camera requires attention to flow to the mechanics of operating buttons, exposure time, capturing the best angle and so on.

That’s taken your attention away from the subject.

What’s more, concentrating on getting a good photograph leads to the sense you’ve done a good job of encoding the object itself, even though you’ve been fiddling about with the camera.

You are not mentally slacking-off because you think the photograph will remind you later, but because you mistakenly think you have already fully made a memory of the subject.

Next time you are enjoying an exciting life event remember if you experience it through your camera, you may be distancing yourself from fuller participation.

Put away that cell phone and enjoy that moment!

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