Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Does Capturing Photos Impair Memory?!

Thu 29 Apr 2021 | 03:35 PM
Omnia Ahmed

Scientists believe photos can actually impair our memory of events, by making us focus on the act of picture-taking rather than the moment itself.

Capturing Photos

Many of us are guilty of whipping out our smartphone to capture a memorable moment, like visiting a famous historical monument or attending a music concert.

In experiments, the researchers in New York found participants were better at recalling details of artwork when they hadn't been taking snaps of them.

Capturing Photos

Many people take photos as a way of preserving precious moments in their life, but the study suggests this doesn't actually work.

"Does taking a photograph of an item improve or impair memory? The literature is currently mixed, with some studies showing impairments and other studies showing improvements," the researchers say in their paper.

"It is possible that simply completing two tasks at once (viewing and photographing) leads to the impairment in memory for photographed items."

Capturing Photos

In addition, the researchers carried out a series of experiments involving 525 participants, who were shown various pieces of artwork, including paintings, sketches and photographs.

The participants were asked to photograph some of the pieces of art using a camera phone, while just observing others. Then, they were informed they were to complete a memory test for the artwork they had viewed.

Accordingly, the artwork used in the study tested two types of object categorization by the human brain – 'perceptual' and 'conceptual'.

While 'perceptual' refers to particular details that we perceive and computes the similarity of one object to another, 'conceptual', on the other hand, refers to ideas and concepts – which allows us to remember objects based on what they do.

Capturing Photos

For the perceptual memory test, participants had to identify what they'd seen among two other 'foils' – visually similar images.

Moreover, the conceptual test involved recognizing a concept that had been previously studied, also placed alongside two other foils.

"Foils were selected to be perceptually and conceptually similar to targets and were comprised of two additional pieces from the same artist or two pieces by a different artist that depicted the same object," the researchers say.

Eventually, the team found that photographed art was remembered more poorly than art that was just viewed, after both a short (20 minutes) and long (48 hours) delay between viewing and recall.

Participants have experienced memory impairment both on perceptually driven and conceptually driven tests, the experts found.