--Original published at Zach Nawrocki's Blog
The age of technology has been taking over humans lives for decades now. One such branch of technology is photography. Have you ever gone on vacation and find an amazing view or monument and the first thing you do is take out a phone or camera and take a picture of it? An interesting new study in the journal, Psychological Science, suggests that taking a photo of an object may actually reduce how much you remember about the object later. Linda Henkel, author of the study and researcher in the Department of Psychology at Fairfield University states, “Taking a photograph is as easy as pointing and shooting, providing an external memory of one’s experiences.”
The first experiment in the study was comprised of a group of 27 undergraduates (6 men and 21 women) who were taken to a museum to observe objects. They were randomly split into two groups, with one set of students asked to read the name of an object, observe it for 20 seconds and then they were to take a picture of it. The second set of students was asked to read the name of the object and then to only observe it for 30 seconds.
The next day the students where asked what they remembered from the previous day about the objects by participating in a free-recall test. This test is a name-recognition test which consisted of the 30 objects including 10 names that were randomly intermixed among the objects and also a visual-recognition test with 10 pictures of objects that were not on the tour. From these tests the students were asked to recognize which objects where on the tour and other details about the objects, such as, “What did the warrior have in his hands?”. From the data it was found the recognition accuracy was lower for photographed objects than for observed objects and was higher when participants saw photos of the objects in the visual-recognition test.
The second experiment conducted in the study was fairly similar to the first one with a few minor additions to make the experiment more accurate. In this experiment, a group of 46 undergraduates (10 men, 36 women) were taken to the museum and asked to observe 27 objects. This time however, they were given 25 seconds to observe the object, then an additional 5 seconds to either take a picture of the whole object or were asked to zoom in on a specific part of the object. They were also asked to only observe some objects without taking a picture of the object. Out of the 27 objects, each participate was asked to take a picture of a whole object 9 times, take a picture of a specific part of an object 9 times and to only observe an object 9 times for a total of 27 objects.
The next day the participates were asked to remember the various pieces of art (the 27 old objects and 10 objects randomly intermixed which were not on the tour). They were also asked to indicate whether they had taken a photo of the object or just observed the object. The participates were asked to rate their confidence about the details that they remembered from the objects that were observed. This experiment had some interesting results however. From the data obtained it shows that participants remembered fewer details about the objects when photos of the whole object were taken, however, participants remembered a similar amount of detail about objects when zoomed in on it compared to objects that were just observed with no photo taken. This data shows that if a person zooms in on an object, they not only remember more detail about the zoomed in part but also the object as a whole since a person has to focus more when zooming in on a picture.
This study shows several interesting facts that were concluded from the data. There is more to either taking a picture or not taking a picture that can affect your memory about an object. Thousands of photos are taken each day and many different factors go into photos including different angles, zooming in and how long you have to take a photo. All these factors can have an impact on how well a person will remember the object in the future. While this study seems professionally done it does not explain how the participants were selected so it cannot be generalized to a population. Nevertheless, remember when taking your next photo to always take another look at the view after you take a picture!
Throughout the process I started to realize how difficult it can actually be to summarize a study with a limited about of space. Most studies (including mine) are pages long talking about how the study was performed and the results from the study. It proved difficult to pick out only the important information that can be used to explain the whole study with limited space. One item that I did leave out was the p-values that were obtained from the study. I decided to leave this out because since this is for the general population I feel as though it is not common knowledge to know what a p-value is or what they are used to show. I was still able to explain the results from the study however without the use of the p-values. Another piece that I left out except for a small part were the five critical questions of research. I decided to leave this out because the five critical questions are not common knowledge to know and some of the questions use words that not everyone might know what they mean. Nevertheless, I did include one critical question which was that since the study did not explain how they selected their participants it cannot be generalized to the population. When comparing my summary to the original news article there are several similarities and differences. Both my summary and the news article describe how the study was performed and how the data from the study was obtained and what the data meant. There are some differences as well. In my summary I go more into the detail of what tests were performed on the participants to obtain the concluding data. I also go into more detail about what that data means and the conclusions they got from the data. The news article never mentions anything about the five critical questions. Knowing that it can be difficult to include the questions into the summary, in my summary I still mentioned the one question which was that the study was not able to be generalized. Overall, while writing this summary I had to remember that it is for a general population to read which made my job of selecting what information to include and what not to include harder since some information that is used in the study is not common knowledge for most people.
While writing this summary I came to realize that we shouldn’t be so harsh on journalists because it is very difficult to include all the data that you want to include to make an article. A lot of information must be left out if you are to make the article understandable for the general public. I also realized that it is very difficult to make an article “attention grabbing”, when you read an article, journalist find ways to make even the most boring topic interesting. I find this very difficult to do being that you are talking about a study which a lot of people don’t want to read about. After writing my news article I have come to find a new appreciation for journalists and the struggles they have to go through to write an article for the public to be able to understand and find interesting.
Original News Article – https://www.cnn.com/2013/12/10/health/memory-photos-psychology/index.html
Scholarly Article – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797613504438