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New NYU Stern Memory Study Says Put Away the Camera

NYU Stern Memory Study

The Stern School of Business at New York University recently explored the new research that explores how photographs might reinforce visual memory at the expense of non-visual memory.

NYU Stern Professor Alixandra Barasch led the study, which appeared in last month’s issue of Psychological Science. Barasch explains, “Our research is novel because it shows that photo-taking itself improves memory for visual aspects of an experience but can hurt memory for non-visual aspects, like auditory details.”

Entitled “Photographic Memory: The Effects of Volitional Photo Taking on Memory for Visual and Auditory Aspects of an Experience,” Barasch, along with co-authors USC Marshall’s Kristin Diehl, Wharton’s Jackie Silverman and Yale’s Gal Zauberman, conducted four experiments that placed its subjects in “a variety of experiential settings, including an exhibit of Etruscan artifacts with an audio guide—some with a camera and some without.”

The quartet found that participants who were equipped with cameras remembered less non-visual information, visually recognized more objects and “had better visual memory for aspects of the exhibit they didn’t photograph” than their peers without cameras. The participants who took “mental photos” revealed “more enhanced visual memory and impaired non-visual memory relative to those who could not take photos.”

Barasch explains how her group’s research could impact business, consumers and educators down the road. “If you want to retain more information from a guided tour, for example, you may be better served to put the camera away. Similarly, teachers may ask students to take photos on a non-narrated museum visit to aid their visual memories.”

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About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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