Study Shows Cameras Could Hinder the Ability to Remember Details

cameraEvery year’s new technology brings a higher resolution to camera phones. The latest iPhone offers users an eight-megapixel clarity that is able to capture high quality images. Some Android cell phones, such as the Samsung S4 Zoom, feature a 16-megapixel lens that gives users a 10X optical zoom for up-close pictures.

But the boom of superior camera technology for phones have left some wondering if consumers are too busy snapping pictures to stay in the moment. In a recent study from National Public Radio (NPR), Maryanne Garry, a Victoria University of Wellington psychology professor, explains that having a phone handy to snap away at photo opportunities could be taking away from being present.

She recalls one incident where she went to the park and saw that everyone was on their smartphones, and most people were not even taking pictures of the scenery, but simply had their cell phone in hand. Her concern is that users are overly focused on trying to take the perfect picture, instead of experiencing the photo opp first hand.

NPR also spoke with human memory researcher and psychologist, Linda Henkel, about the effect taking pictures has on the memory of a particular object or event. In one study conducted by the Fairfield University researcher, she asked some students to record their observations about an art museum exhibit mentally, while others were assigned to take pictures. She found that students who took pictures remembered much less about the actual details of the exhibit than students who observed them without a lens.

While this substantiates Garry’s claim, it will likely only cause a small ripple in the eyes of camera phone users. New apps are released at an alarming rate, many of them focused on providing easy organization, and filters that enhance pictures. Afilter, an iPhone app, has gained repute because it offers more than 200 filters to tweak pictures. In addition, VSCO Cam, for both iPhone and Android users, presents a user-friendly interface that allows pictures to be altered using various filters and photo editing tools.

As more apps develop, people will continue turn to their phones to capture their favorite moments, and Henkel is not advocating that people stop taking pictures; she only warns that people should not rely on photographs to store their memories.