March 1st, 2014| Topic: RaMbLeS | 1


I saw it last year in Paris. And it’s pretty small. 30 inches × 21 inches. But there’s always a huge crowd around it. And everyone’s got their smart phones and cameras out. No one’s looking. Everyone’s taking pictures. Of the Mona Lisa. In the Louvre.

Maybe they want to remember it after they get home. (It always puzzles me why folks [including me] think their own pictures of famous places, pictures, and persons are better than ones you find on Google Images. But that’s another story.)

All through museums, and sights, and archeological finds, and scenic places. Everyone’s taking pictures. Not many are actually looking, unless you count staring through a lens as “looking.”

Well, all of this lens-gazing ain’t good, recent research in Psychological Science tells us. You might want to put your cameras down. Work by psychologist Linda Henkel at Fairfield University demonstrates that those taking photos actually had a worse memory for those objects photographed. Said Dr. Henkel:

People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly to capture a moment, to the point that they are missing what is happening right in front of them.”

She wondered how much these photographs help us remember. So she set up an experiment in Fairfield’s Bellarmine Museum of Art. Undergrads were taken on a museum tour and asked to note certain objects: one group, by photographing them; another group, simply by observing.

Surprisingly, the photographers showed less accuracy in remembering details than the observers.

Henkel labels this the “photo-taking impairment effect”:

When people rely on technology to remember for them—counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves—it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences.”

This happens all the time. Especially in my family (the lady bitten by the camera-shutter bug shall go unnamed): everything is photographed. Everything! Restaurants, museums, Christmas trees, food. Everything. We groan when aforementioned lady brings out said camera. (I am told that this is particularly an affliction that affects those hailing from Asia: India, Philippines, Japan, Korea, ….)

But said lady—and all of those museum-goers—would argue that they take pictures so that she can remember them later.

She’s got a point. Review does help memory. But only if we take the time to review them. Instagram-ing, Evernote-ing, and Dropbox-ing pictures, or otherwise digitally stockpiling them in storage within some unnamed folder in the dark depths of some external hard drive, never to see light again, don’t help nobody remember nothin’. Here’s Henkel again:

Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them. In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them.”

Review to remember! Nice exhortation. Go back and bask in those memories.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
Psalm 63:6–7

I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.
Psalm 77:11–12

You know, cloud and drive storage is not a bad idea, after all. In fact, I’ve created a “notebook” on Evernote called Portfolio of Gratitude, with pictures of people, things, experiences, and places for which I am grateful to God. Pictures I can review. And remember. And praise God for.

1 Comment

  1. Luc Ladry April 30, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I think that the message in front of the text is that “Our photos of the Lord’s doings in our lives would gain much if we would meditate upon them. This, as He is worthy of our closest attention, i.e., adoration. Yes, much much more than Mona Lisa.



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