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Capturing Moments With Photos May Impair Memory

Update Date: Dec 09, 2013 02:55 PM EST
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People who are always take pictures to capture the moment may be losing more than they gain because of the "photo-taking impairment effect," according to a new study.

While taking pictures seems like a good way to preserve precious moments, a new study suggests that it might make you more forgetful of things that are happening right in front out you.

A new study from Fairfield University found that people had worse memory for objects and for specific object details when they took photographs of them.

"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," lead researcher Linda Henkel said in a news release.

In the latest study, participants were given a tour around the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University. Participants were asked to take note of certain object, either by photographing them or by observing them. The next day, participants were tested on how well they remembered the objects.

The findings revealed that participants who took pictures were less accurate in recognizing the objects than those who simply observed. What's more, participants weren't able to answer as many questions about the objects' visual details for those they had photographed.

"When people rely on technology to remember for them-counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves-it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences," Henkel explained.

However, researchers found that zooming in on an about seemed to help preserve memory. In a second study, Henkel and her team found that taking a photograph of a specific detail on the object by zooming in seemed to preserve memory for the object, not just the part that was zoomed in on but also for the part that was out of frame.

"These results show how the 'mind's eye' and the camera's eye are not the same," said Henkel.

However, researchers believe that reviewing the pictures may help boost our memories.

"Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them," said Henkel. "In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them."

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science

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