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The big picture: How the acts of taking and viewing photos can influence memory

Photography has become a ubiquitous part of our day-to-day activities. Cameras let us capture events and objects for later reminiscing and our photos help cue our recollections of the past. In recent years, our increasingly close relationship with photography has led some critics to warn of the dangers in trusting photos as a memory aid. Snap-happy photographers are warned that ‘taking photos can ruin their memory,’ whereas social media users are often cautioned about how photos might be manipulated or doctored to depict events that never happened.

In three experimental studies we explored the relation between photography and memory by examining the effect of taking photos on memory for discrete objects and unfolding events. We also examined the extent to which poorly-doctored photos might shape people’s memories for news events that didn’t happen. Across these studies, we found that the effects of photo-taking on memory are small and depend on how people are taking photos and of what. Additionally, although people can easily reject an event presented in a poorly-doctored photo, one week later they consider the event more likely to have happened and indicate having some memory of it; these effects appear to persist even 10 weeks after debriefing. Together, our findings underscore the need for people to be more wary of how photos can, under some conditions, change how we remember our experiences.

The Department of Psychology regularly hosts seminars on research within psychology. These seminars are open to Otago University staff, students and members of the public.

Seminars are free and there is no need to book.

Date Monday, 9 November 2020
Time 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Audience Public,All University
Event Category Sciences
Event Type Open Seminar
LocationDepartment of Psychology
Room 2.03, Level 2
William James Bldg
275 Leith Walk
Dunedin 9016
Contact NameDepartment of Psychology
Contact Phone+64 3 479 7644

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