Photography and photos have always been used to immortalize a moment before quickly becoming a memory. But do they actually improve your memory?
If you are a photographer who spends a lot of time taking pictures or if you are interested in photography, this topic may be of interest to you. After all, if you could create beautiful images and improve your brain function at the same time, why not?
How the brain works
The human brain is, of course, designed to store memories. But oddly enough, it also tends to fabricate or alter these memories in order to understand them. Sometimes complicated events make plans in our lives and our brain will do its best to process these events by rationalizing them. Based on our culture, beliefs, and personality, the brain will start putting together pieces of what we feel is right.
We all know that we remember something better if we pay more attention to it. Memory becomes more accurate when factors such as emotions and mindfulness are involved.
Straight-A students not only reread their textbooks, they also dig deep into the wormhole of knowledge to gain a better understanding of the subject. The more we become absorbed in an activity; we will probably remember.
Engagement and emotions are part of the reason we remember those embarrassing moments from months or even years ago.
Like it or not, most people today spend extended periods of time in front of their screens. This “addiction” is so widespread that some people are starting to teach themselves to spend less time online by adopting habits like “dopamine fasting,” which has gone viral on YouTube thanks to some self-improvement channels.
Smartphones are the ultimate tool for people to store information in a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep an overview. After all, most people don’t remember all the phone numbers of their relatives or friends!
Known as memory offloading, we forget memories that we judge to be unworthy or unnecessary. Our brains can only remember so much, and there will be times when we forget what something means.
Does this mean smartphones are making us dumber? Well not really. On the contrary, smartphones have proven to be particularly useful for people with low cognitive abilities. If someone gets lost in a city, they can simply open Google Maps and find their way out.
If we manage to limit the use of smartphones, there is a chance that we can become smarter. Our smartphone is just a tool waiting to be used wisely to improve the quality of our lives.
Where things get interesting
So what do smartphones have to do with photography and improving memory? Well, this is where it gets interesting. According to Research by Alixandra Barash & Co, the activity and intention of taking a picture would strengthen a person’s visual memory. The catch is that their auditory memory is somewhat impaired.
Most intriguing are the people who “mentally frame” moments rather than actually capture them. Apparently they have the same cognitive effect as those who actually take pictures. Participants who were instructed to take photos remembered specific images they hadn’t even photographed.
Compared to the group who were told not to take pictures and follow the tour, the photographers could not accurately remember the guide’s said audio.
This proves that photography doesn’t really outsource our memory; the act itself causes us to tunnel our vision into visual aspects. This tunnel vision distracts us from fully enjoying other sensations, such as how the wind felt, what the weather was like, etc.
Problems and conclusions
The main problem with this topic is the variables. It is becoming increasingly difficult to assess how smartphones affect our cognition with our constant change of use with them.
Our brains can adapt to a new lifestyle at different speeds, making each individual’s dynamic unique. Ultimately, photography improves visual memory.
However, there is a price to pay for it, which is our ability to sense other sensations around us. Most articles and studies discussing this topic would mention the trade-off, which turned out to be absolutely correct.
When we go on vacation or travel, we have to stick to our decision. Either we enjoy the environment as it is or we focus on encapsulating it in our photos to share on social media.