A new study is suggesting that we’re allowing our technology to do too much of our remembering for us. That’s according to Fairfield University’s Linda Henkel, who’s found evidence of the “photo impairment effect,” which involves decreased recall of a thing once we’ve taken a picture of it.
Speaking with The Independent, Henkel explains “When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences.”
To test her hypothesis, Henkel took a group of students to a museum, allowing them to pay attention to some of its exhibits either by memory or using photographs. Henkel found that those who didn’t take photos had greater recall of the exhibits than those who did (although a follow-up study found that students who took photos of a specific detail maintained a clear memory of their subject).
These findings are in line with earlier studies that show how our connected lives are impacting our memories. For example, back in 2011, Columbia University psychology’s Betsy Sparrow found that our reliance on search engines has reorganized how our thought processes function. According to Sparrow’s study, “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” we’re now more likely to have less recall for something we know we’re readily able to find online, while conversely, our memories will maintain information that was harder to find.
So yeah, lay off the Google and Wikipedia while you’re at it.