Photographs actually impair your memory of an event, rather than support it
A new study shows that photographing something doesn't help you remember it. Looks like the ol' "Take a picture, it'll last longer" insult doesn't actually hold any water.
Photography is a noble hobby, and a worthy profession. The greats—like the late Henri Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand—knew how to take a seemingly innocuous moment of daily life and make it art. But the other 99.9999% of photography doesn't reach such lofty goals. In actual fact, most photos are throwaway. In 2014 alone, 1.8 billion photos were uploaded to the internet every day... meaning that 617 billion photographs were uploaded that year.
And why are we taking and uploading so many pictures? That's not for me, a lowly editor, to say. There's probably some reason having to do with wanting to leave an impression on this world, proving that we lived, that we were there, and that, yes, we existed. Yada yada yada, sands of time, etc.
But that's not exactly the case, as it looks like we might be doing all this work for very little. A study from UC Santa Cruz shows that photographs don't actually present the truth of the moment: they actually distort it.
The reason? Cognitive offloading. It's the reason why diarying is an effective therapeutic technique: we encode our memories and therefore preserve them. It turns out that photographing gives the photographer significantly less need to encode (i.e. we tend to put more mental stock, if you will, into the photograph that we just took rather than actually encoding the memory ourselves).
In one experiment, two study groups were given 10-15 seconds to memorize paintings, one group used Snapchat (ephemeral pictures) to document the paintings, the other was given the regular iPhone camera/pictures app. That 2nd group was told right before the memory test that they wouldn't able to use the pictures. In the second experiment, the Snapchat group was instructed to delete the photos manually after 15 seconds, and the 2nd group was given 15 seconds of viewing time after they had taken a picture.
In both experiments, the groups seemed to rely more heavily on the photos than their own memory. The conclusion the study reached was that 62.5% of the participants thought that they remembered more about the paintings than the post-viewing test showed, while only 19% of the participants realized that their photography actually lessened the experience of memorizing the photos.
Confused as to what Snapchat and iPhones have to do with photography and memory? This paragraph from the study does an excellent job of summing it up:
Although speculative, one possible interpretation of this finding is that participants suffered from a sort of metacognitive illusion. Specifically, photo-taking may have given participants a subjective sense of encoding fluency, leading them to think they had already encoded the objects—not only via the camera but via their own organic memory—thus rendering them less likely to put additional effort toward encoding the objects in the time that followed. Said differently, photo-taking may have led participants to think that they had already encoded the paintings, making them less likely to employ the type of encoding strategies that would have been useful for improving memory
Full disclosure and shameless plug: I'm a photographer. I can attest, at least on the anecdotal level, that if you're using a camera to replace or supplement your memory it'll skew the whole experience. But if you're using a camera to create art, to paint a picture, if you will, then that photograph will hold a lot more water than a casual snapshot. It only takes this one Garry Winogrand picture to prove my point.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
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The future of education and work will rely on teaching students deeper problem-solving skills.
- Asking kids 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' is a question that used to make sense, says Jaime Casap. But it not longer does; the nature of automation and artificial intelligence means future jobs are likely to shift and reform many times over.
- Instead, educators should foster a culture of problem solving. Ask children: What problem do you want to solve? And what talents or passions do you have that can be the avenues by which you solve it?
- "[T]he future of education starts on Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday and it's constant and consistent and it's always growing, always improving, and if we create that culture I think that would bring us a long way," Casap says.
These Jurassic predators resorted to cannibalism when hit with hard times, according to a deliciously rare discovery.
- Rare fossil evidence of dinosaur cannibalism among the Allosaurus has been discovered.
- Scientists analyzed dinosaur bones found in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in western Colorado, paying special attention to bite marks that were present on 2,368 of the bones.
- It's likely that the predatory carnivore only ate their already-dead peers during times when resources were scarce.
As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.