The researchers did a series of studies to come to this finding. In one, participants toured a museum exhibit with an audio guide – but only some people had a camera. The participants who took photos of the exhibit recognised more of the objects from the exhibit afterwards, compared to those who didn’t have a camera.
FYI: the photo-takers did remember less of the audio tour compared to the group without cameras. So, taking pics can have some downsides.
In another experiment, the participants did a virtual art gallery tour. Some participants could take pics of what they saw. Once again, those who could take photos had a better memory of the objects in the exhibit afterwards, even for parts of the exhibit they didn’t photograph. Surprisingly, participants also had better visual memory if they just “mentally” took a photo. Try uploading that one to Instagram…
“These findings suggest that having a camera changes how people approach an experience in a fundamental way,” the study authors said. “Even when people don’t take a photo of a particular object, like a sculpture, but have a camera with them and the intention to take photos, they remember that sculpture better than people who did not have a camera with them.”
The studies suggest that taking a photo focuses your memory towards some parts of your experience – but, err, filters it away from others. So don’t feel guilty if you’re snapping cute Instagram pics on your night out – it may help you remember some juicy details the next morning.