Photos and Memories (06-01-18)

Soares and Storm investigated how taking a photo influences remembering what’s shown in that photograph. The researchers report that earlier studies have shown “A photo-taking-impairment effect . . . such that participants are less likely to remember objects they photograph than objects they only observe.” In their study, Soares and Storm determined that ”participants exhibited a significant photo-taking-impairment effect even though they did not expect to have access to the photos. In fact, the effect was just as large as when participants believed they would have access to the photos.” So, whether study participants thought they would be able to look at photographs in the future or not be able to do so did not affect memories of objects photographed.  In both cases, taking the photographs was linked to degraded memories.  Many professionals take photographs in the course of their work, and Soares and Storm’s findings suggest modifications in their work processes are in order.  For example, when photographs are necessary, one person on a team may be designated as the group photographer and the other members may be “prohibited” from taking photos.  It’s important to note that when people are wearing cameras that automatically take photographs, this memory effect is not found.  

Julia Soares and Benjamin Storm.  2018.  “Forget in a Flash:  A Further Investigation of the Photo-Taking-Impairment Effect.”  Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, vol. 7, o. 1, pp. 154-160,