Study Says Taking Photos Harms Memory

February 11, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. passive /ˈpæsɪv/ (adj.) – lacks effort or activeness
Example: The passive students did not accomplish their assignment.

2. perspective /pərˈspɛktɪv/ (n.) – the direction in which a person looks at
Example: Cameras surrounding the field give viewers different perspectives.

3. zoom in /zum ɪn/ (v. phrase) – to adjust the camera lens to make an image appear closer or bigger
Example: The camera zoomed in on the actor’s mad face.

4. vividly /ˈvɪvɪdli/ (adv.) – done in a very detailed and visual way
Example: The student vividly remembered the teacher’s drawings.

5. impair /ɪmˈpɛər/ (v.) – to lessen something’s quality or ability
Example: Aging can impair one’s memory.


Read the text below.
Recent study shows that taking photos can make one forget the details of an event that he or she is trying to capture.

Psychologist Linda Henkel [HENG-kuhl] of Fairfield University calls this situation the 'photo-taking-impairment effect.' She links the use of cameras to people’s poor memory. The presence of a recording gadget somewhat makes people’s brains passive in retaining the things they saw or experienced in an activity, Henkel added.

To prove her claim, Henkel did a research by letting three groups of students go to a museum. The first group brought cameras without taking photos. The second group took photos in a wider perspective while the last group zoomed in on their subjects. Henkel then tested what the students recalled from the museum.

Results of the study showed that groups who took photos were less accurate than the first group in remembering the visual details of the museum displays. However, the third group who zoomed in on the subjects recalled more of the subject’s details than the group who took photos at a wider angle.

What’s even more surprising is that the participants from the third group were also able to vividly remember even the things they did not include in the picture. Henkel thus pointed out that zooming may trigger a cognitive function that is different from memory.

Photographs help people relive special occasions in their lives. Hence, Henkel’s study does not aim to discourage people from capturing these moments. However, she suggests that people be more mindful in taking pictures and put more effort in interacting in order to avoid impairing their memory.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you now take fewer photos after knowing the conclusion of this study? Why or why not?
·         How else can people avoid impairing their memory?

Discussion B

·         Do you think taking photos of special moments are very important? Why or why not?
·         Aside from taking photos, how else can a person preserve special memories? Kindly discuss with your tutor.


February 11, 2014