Turns out that our obsession with documenting every moment of our lives may be damaging our ability to remember those moments. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
Snapping photographs — rather than just taking in an experience without looking through a lens — prevents memories from fulling sinking in, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. The study’s author, Linda Henkel of Fairfield University, calls it the “photo-taking-impairment effect.” She explains further, in the study’s abstract:
If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them.
Additional research, however, did reveal an exception:
When participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on.
So in other words: if you really want to remember your friend’s birthday party but you still insist on taking pictures, looks like you’ll have to zoom in really close on his face as he’s blowing out his candles. It may be creepy, but it’s the only way.