Taking photographs for to document and remember a memorable experience may be counterproductive, say scientists who found that the act of clicking pictures impairs people’s memories of the event.

"People think that taking a photo will help them remember something better, but it’s actually quite the contrary," said Julia Soares, doctoral student at University of California,Santa Cruz.

In a set of experiments, researchers invited people to a virtual museum tour where they looked at paintings on computer screens, knowing they would be tested on what they saw.

Researchers compared how well participants remembered the paintings following three scenarios: when they just looked at the images; when they looked and took pictures using a camera phone; and when they took pictures usingSnapchat.

The picture-takers consistently scored worse – by as much as 20 per cent – on multiple choice tests about what they had seen. Soares thought that the result could be chalked up to the phenomenon known as "cognitive off-loading" – that is, not remembering as well because you know the camera is there to remember for you. By stepping out of the moment to take a picture, people become less focused on what’s in front of them, a phenomenon Soares termed "attentional disengagement."

Taking photos might also create a false sense that we know the subject better than we actually do – what she calls a "metacognitive illusion" – making us less likely to use the mental strategies that help us remember. Ironically, most of the photo-takers were sure that taking pictures improved their recall, Soares said.

"I’m not saying people shouldn’t ever take photographs, but they might want to be mindful about deciding when they do it," she said.IANS

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