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  • Eyes are better at mental snapshots than cameras, study suggests

    Eyes are better at mental snapshots than cameras, study suggests
    By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
    updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue December 10, 2013

    (CNN) -- I've got hundreds of photos from my recent Europe trip, split between a smartphone and a big camera. A lot are shots of the same thing -- my attempt to get the perfect lighting on a fountain or a cathedral, for example -- so that I'll have these scenes to remember always.

    So I was interested to read a new study in the journal Psychological Science suggesting that the act of taking photos may actually diminish what we remember about objects being photographed.

    "People just pull out their cameras," says study author Linda Henkel, researcher in the department of psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut. "They just don't pay attention to what they're even looking at, like just capturing the photo is more important than actually being there."

    At the same time, she found that zooming in on objects helps preserve people's memory of them, beyond just the detail on which they zoomed.

    Henkel's father is a photographer, so she has been hanging around photos and taking photos all her life. She wanted to see if snapping photos of objects would impact people's memories of what they saw at a museum.

    This study had a small sample size: 27 undergraduates participated in the first part, and 46 in the second. Both groups were mostly women. In order to strengthen the conclusions, this research would need to be replicated with a lot more people and a more balanced sex ratio, not to mention a wider range of demographic characteristics such as age.

    But this is an interesting start. It underscores the point that there are different ways that the brain processes information: At an automatic level, by taking pictures, and at a more meaningful level, by focusing on a specific object or something with a personal association, said Paul D. Nussbaum, clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

    It's that deeper level that enables memories to form, Nussbaum said in an e-mail.

    "The more we engage our brain into processing a stimuli and the more personal that processing is, the more solid the memory formation and recall," he said.
    Much more.

    CNN
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

  • #2
    Interesting story… perhaps this explains why my memories of certain events are so vivid, while the ones I've photographed over the years seem like fuzzy memories.

    I have a particularly poor short term memory, so taking tons of photographs is one way for me to augment memories. I suppose it could be doing more harm than good.
    “Any sufficiently advanced capitalism is indistinguishable from rent seeking.” ~ =j

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Tom Servo View Post
      Interesting story… perhaps this explains why my memories of certain events are so vivid, while the ones I've photographed over the years seem like fuzzy memories.

      I have a particularly poor short term memory, so taking tons of photographs is one way for me to augment memories. I suppose it could be doing more harm than good.
      I think there's something to this but I'm not sure how to express it. In talking with people who attended the same event as I did (and who were actually with me 90% of the time), it's like we were at two completely different things if the friend is rabid pic-taker. I always thought it because the pic-takers didn't have as much time to talk with people but maybe something else is going on.
      "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

      Comment


      • #4
        While it might be true in the short term for small details, I don't think this is true at all for small details decades later.

        I'd forgotten all about a very picturesque creek in Turkey until a friend posted a picture of us washing our Humvee in it. That triggered memories of all sorts other stuff.
        "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

        -John Locke

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by scott View Post
          While it might be true in the short term for small details, I don't think this is true at all for small details decades later.

          I'd forgotten all about a very picturesque creek in Turkey until a friend posted a picture of us washing our Humvee in it. That triggered memories of all sorts other stuff.
          I think article is more about the zillions of very mundane pix that people take today. Even a crummy Polaroid of the time your grandparents took you to the State Fair will evoke a host of memories because it's probably one of only a few pix of you and them doing something together.

          Contrast that to the thousands of pix taken by the average teen today. The rare and singular are submerged in an ocean of forgettable. It probably affects their experience of recall.
          "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
            I think article is more about the zillions of very mundane pix that people take today. Even a crummy Polaroid of the time your grandparents took you to the State Fair will evoke a host of memories because it's probably one of only a few pix of you and them doing something together.

            Contrast that to the thousands of pix taken by the average teen today. The rare and singular are submerged in an ocean of forgettable. It probably affects their experience of recall.
            I'm not sure about that and we won't know for 20 years at least.
            "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

            -John Locke

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
              I think article is more about the zillions of very mundane pix that people take today. Even a crummy Polaroid of the time your grandparents took you to the State Fair will evoke a host of memories because it's probably one of only a few pix of you and them doing something together.

              Contrast that to the thousands of pix taken by the average teen today. The rare and singular are submerged in an ocean of forgettable. It probably affects their experience of recall.
              I think that issue is that people/young kids, have stopped enjoying the moment in their zest to photograph every moment. They are no longer living their lives, they are selfying it.
              Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
              Robert Southwell, S.J.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                I think that issue is that people/young kids, have stopped enjoying the moment in their zest to photograph every moment. They are no longer living their lives, they are selfying it.
                Well, that may be the issue. Basically, all the focus on texts, tweets, pix and so on take you out of the moment in a radical way. You just aren't "present" for what's going on in the moment. We're wired to lay down memory through re-imagination of the moment. Thinking about moments, fantasizing about moments, and re-experiencing conversations, images, and events as well as talking about them is how human beings encode memory. Viewing images of moments without all that other stuff may not be adequate.
                "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                  Well, that may be the issue. Basically, all the focus on texts, tweets, pix and so on take you out of the moment in a radical way. You just aren't "present" for what's going on in the moment. We're wired to lay down memory through re-imagination of the moment. Thinking about moments, fantasizing about moments, and re-experiencing conversations, images, and events as well as talking about them is how human beings encode memory. Viewing images of moments without all that other stuff may not be adequate.
                  And our parents think we're wasting our lives talking to people who aren't real.

                  Things change.

                  One of my fellow scout leaders made a rule on a recent camping trip that no kids could bring or use any electronics. She was dismayed that on a previous camping trip some of the parents let their kids play games on their phones "the entire time." I asked around and it seems the only people bothered by this were the organizers of the camping trip. After informing her that she didn't have the authority to make this rule (and therefore there was no way to enforce it), I made a list of all the things my son does with his electronics while camping:

                  GPS to find stuff - and get back to the campsite
                  Identify plants and bugs
                  Look up whatever cool outdoor activity he feels like doing at the moment
                  Astronomy
                  Astronomy! Seriously, the new apps make it MUCH better when you don't see dark skies at home
                  First aid for whatever thing just bit him - cut him - poked him
                  Temple Run for the car ride there and home

                  Me? I love being able to tune out the screaming kids with some Netflix and it's nice to watch the game in front of the fire.

                  So I was able to nix the rule but promised her that I'd police the activity to make sure the kids weren't wasting the experience. I never had to say a word to anyone
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                  -John Locke

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by scott View Post
                    And our parents think we're wasting our lives talking to people who aren't real.

                    Things change.

                    One of my fellow scout leaders made a rule on a recent camping trip that no kids could bring or use any electronics. She was dismayed that on a previous camping trip some of the parents let their kids play games on their phones "the entire time." I asked around and it seems the only people bothered by this were the organizers of the camping trip. After informing her that she didn't have the authority to make this rule (and therefore there was no way to enforce it), I made a list of all the things my son does with his electronics while camping:

                    GPS to find stuff - and get back to the campsite
                    Identify plants and bugs
                    Look up whatever cool outdoor activity he feels like doing at the moment
                    Astronomy
                    Astronomy! Seriously, the new apps make it MUCH better when you don't see dark skies at home
                    First aid for whatever thing just bit him - cut him - poked him
                    Temple Run for the car ride there and home

                    Me? I love being able to tune out the screaming kids with some Netflix and it's nice to watch the game in front of the fire.

                    So I was able to nix the rule but promised her that I'd police the activity to make sure the kids weren't wasting the experience. I never had to say a word to anyone
                    The article isn't about interest-specific uses of the Internet to further education. It's about a lapse of memory formation when people are distracted by taking pix versus a non-distracting view of image memory.

                    Will I retain more visual memory by simply viewing an object or will I retain more by taking a pic of it during a 2 hour journey? Apparently, viewing it and knowing that I need to recall details is more effective than photographing it and knowing I need to retain details.
                    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scott View Post
                      And our parents think we're wasting our lives talking to people who aren't real.

                      Things change.

                      One of my fellow scout leaders made a rule on a recent camping trip that no kids could bring or use any electronics. She was dismayed that on a previous camping trip some of the parents let their kids play games on their phones "the entire time." I asked around and it seems the only people bothered by this were the organizers of the camping trip. After informing her that she didn't have the authority to make this rule (and therefore there was no way to enforce it), I made a list of all the things my son does with his electronics while camping:

                      GPS to find stuff - and get back to the campsite
                      Identify plants and bugs
                      Look up whatever cool outdoor activity he feels like doing at the moment
                      Astronomy
                      Astronomy! Seriously, the new apps make it MUCH better when you don't see dark skies at home
                      First aid for whatever thing just bit him - cut him - poked him
                      Temple Run for the car ride there and home

                      Me? I love being able to tune out the screaming kids with some Netflix and it's nice to watch the game in front of the fire.

                      So I was able to nix the rule but promised her that I'd police the activity to make sure the kids weren't wasting the experience. I never had to say a word to anyone
                      I always thought I'd rule no electronics on my trips with the kids. I find that they all need a little "down time" from the group time. It's been fun to have the kids plug in their music through the car for all of us to listen to. One nephew used his phone to prove me wrong about a Billy Joel song (they claimed it was Elton John...up, come on...I graduated college in 1988, no way I'm getting a Billy Joel and Elton John song mixed up...they were all shocked I was right).

                      A little electronics is not a bad thing. Occasionally I had to nudge one nephew to get off his when it was his turn at a quiz game, but by and large I had no issue with the time they spent on their electronics. We were having fun, they all wanted to enjoy the fun, but still be a bit connected. And sometimes, during the drive, I enjoyed the quiet.
                      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                      Robert Southwell, S.J.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                        The article isn't about interest-specific uses of the Internet to further education. It's about a lapse of memory formation when people are distracted by taking pix versus a non-distracting view of image memory.

                        Will I retain more visual memory by simply viewing an object or will I retain more by taking a pic of it during a 2 hour journey? Apparently, viewing it and knowing that I need to recall details is more effective than photographing it and knowing I need to retain details.
                        According to this study that is too new to know whether a camera roll 20 years from now will better frame the experience.

                        There's a reason large collections of images taken during a journey are widely regarded as valuable works of art.
                        "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                        -John Locke

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                          I always thought I'd rule no electronics on my trips with the kids. I find that they all need a little "down time" from the group time. It's been fun to have the kids plug in their music through the car for all of us to listen to. One nephew used his phone to prove me wrong about a Billy Joel song (they claimed it was Elton John...up, come on...I graduated college in 1988, no way I'm getting a Billy Joel and Elton John song mixed up...they were all shocked I was right).

                          A little electronics is not a bad thing. Occasionally I had to nudge one nephew to get off his when it was his turn at a quiz game, but by and large I had no issue with the time they spent on their electronics. We were having fun, they all wanted to enjoy the fun, but still be a bit connected. And sometimes, during the drive, I enjoyed the quiet.
                          I really think it comes down to personal preference. I can always "unplug" and go for a quiet swim in the lake. Other times it's more fun if I fire up the Sea Doo, and sometimes it's really cool to pull out the GoPros and make the kids rock stars.

                          Astronomy is way better with technology, no doubt about it.
                          "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                          -John Locke

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by scott View Post
                            According to this study that is too new to know whether a camera roll 20 years from now will better frame the experience.

                            There's a reason large collections of images taken during a journey are widely regarded as valuable works of art.
                            LOL! You haven't seen the large collections of pix my friends and family take on a journey. They're "collections:, all right. "Works of art"?

                            Not so much.
                            "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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