How Your Instagram Habit Can Help Your Memory (But Don’t Overdo It)

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by Anna Brech |
Published on

Instagram often gets a bad rap these days.

We mock people who spend time choreographing the perfect shot. They're anti-social and they can't live in the present moment - so common belief would have it.

Plus, they're curating fake standards which breed comparison and make everyone else feel worse.

But, there are some advantages to being photo-obsessed. A new piece in The Cut this week looks at the impact of photography on memory and cognitive recall.

Quoting a study published in the June edition of Psychological Science, it explores how the mere act of taking a photo can help you to remember events or sights better.

Researchers from the University of Southern California found that participants who took photos of objects in a museum could better remember them, compared to those who didn't take photos.

This held true even if participants didn't look back on the snaps in question: just taking the photo was enough to fuel memory.

As author Jenny Chen points out, "these findings contribute to a larger debate about whether or not taking photographs enhances our experiences or distracts us from them".

Previous research has speculated that taking photos actually means we forget scenes or events more quickly - because, reassured by the fact we've documented them, we can lose them from our minds in an act known as "cognitive unloading".

But this didn't happen in the museum study. Researchers speculated that, if we're particularly motivated to remember something positive - as with a standout event, experience or object - we will do so, regardless of the "cognitive unloading" element enabled by taking a photograph.

However, there is a down-side to taking a lot of photos.

The study found that those who paid more attention to taking photos of objects in the museum missed out on information broadcast in the audio guide all participants were given, as a result.

"While we generally tend to place more value on our sense of sight than our sense of hearing, studies have shown that auditory processing is important for cognition — especially when it comes to learning and remembering the order and timing of information," writes Chen.

In other words, taking a ton of photos may help visual retention in memory, and form a guide as we literally "look back" on the experiences we've had.

But, in our quest to get snap-happy and feed our Instagram with a bevy of beautiful snaps, we shouldn't forget to pay attention to the other senses that form memory, too.

Sound, smell, taste and touch are all important factors in remembering things: and they may be overlooked in our quest to get that killer Insta-worthy shot.

Read More: 10 Hot And Healthy Ways To Improve Your Memory

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