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Are You Keeping the Memory or the Photo?

taking photoLong ago, the existence of photos is to help people recall things happened in the past. A line in movie Central Station said:” If you miss me, you can look at our photo. I’m saying this because I’m afraid one day you’ll forget me.” As the development of smart devices, most people can take photos wherever and whenever they want, but do have you ever thought, are you actually keeping the memory or just the photo?

 Researchers gathered a group of participants who were going to visit a museum and each visitor had a list of things they planned to visit. When they were viewing half of the exhibits, they were asked to look at the exhibits for 20 seconds and take photos for 10 seconds. One day later, the participants went back to lab and the researchers tested their memories. The results showed that taking photos of exhibits jeopardized participants’ memories. In other words, we did not have better memories on exhibits that we took photos of.

 The researchers made some changes in the second experiment:

  1. Control the time duration for participants to view the exhibits to be the same no matter taking or not taking photos;
  2. Add a focus-changing group as comparison – in this group, the participants can’t shoot the entire exhibit, instead, they were asked to film a certain part;
  3. The participants would be asked with an extra question after the experiment – which showroom was the exhibit located in?

As for the overall memory, participants showed poorest performance on exhibits that needed to be fully captured, which same with the result obtained in the first experiment. Moreover, imaging a certain part of an exhibit would not influence memory negatively while the participants showed similar memory performance on the parts that were not taken into images. However, if ask the participants where the exhibits were placed, the subjects presented lowest accuracy on exhibits partially imaged.

 Why? The researchers believe that the action of taking images will relax ourselves because we know the object is successfully saved and if we want to recall memory, we just need to take a glimpse on the photo. However, when one is taking photos with changed focus, he needs to input extra cognitive resources, hence taking images has minimal negative effect on memory. But, this study can’t deny photos’ help on memories because in this study, the participants were not allowed to review the photos they took. Also, previous studies have proven that videos are helpful in assisting memory recall.

Anyway, don’t focus too much on taking photos next time – it’s not the main purpose when you are visiting a fantastic scenery or enjoying a dish of delicacy.