Tag Archives: Psychological Science

Photo taking can impair memory

20 Feb

Recently, my university adopted a smoke free campus policy, banning smoking everywhere on campus. A few weeks ago I was I saw blind woman smoking a cigarette standing right in front of a large no-smoking sign. While this story raises a number interesting questions, one of the most striking things I found was the most common response to hearing it was: “did you take a photo?” Unfortunately, while I certainly could have, the thought never crossed my mind.

I have often wondered if some people are more photo oriented than others, and I have somethings felt that taking a photo diminishes the immediate experience. Recently, I came across this paper in Psychological Science that suggests that photo taking might interfere with the memory of the very event we are photographing. Here is the abstract:


“Two studies examined whether photographing objects impacts what is remembered about them. Participants were led on a guided tour of an art museum and were directed to observe some objects and to photograph others. Results showed a photo-taking-impairment effect: If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them. However, when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on. This finding highlights key differences between people’s memory and the camera’s “memory” and suggests that the additional attentional and cognitive processes engaged by this focused activity can eliminate the photo-taking-impairment effect.”

Note that the effect occurs only under certain circumstances, so you might want to adjust your photo taking in order to enjoy both your snapshots and your memories.

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Time of day affects ethics

13 Feb

A paper in Psychological Science reports that time a day affects moral behavior. The abstract:

“Are people more moral in the morning than in the afternoon? We propose that the normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations. In a series of four experiments, both undergraduate students and a sample of U.S. adults engaged in less unethical behavior (e.g., less lying and cheating) on tasks performed in the morning than on the same tasks performed in the afternoon. This morning morality effect was mediated by decreases in moral awareness and self-control in the afternoon. Furthermore, the effect of time of day on unethical behavior was found to be stronger for people with a lower propensity to morally disengage. These findings highlight a simple yet pervasive factor (i.e., the time of day) that has important implications for moral behavior.”

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Hemispatial neglect

10 Feb

The latest issue of Psychological Science arrived with an interesting article on hemispatial neglect.

Hemispatial neglect is a condition observed in individuals with damage to one brain hemisphere. It is the tendency of these individuals not to see, be aware of, or manipulate objects on the side opposite the damaged brain hemisphere. For example, men with hemispatial neglect will often fail to shave one side of their face.

Here is a video of a patient with hemispatial neglect


The paper, “Patients With Left Spatial Neglect Also Neglect the ”Left Side” of Time” reports the interesting discovery that neglect also affects how people process time. We tend to think of time spatially, for example, we talk about going forward in time, or events in the past as being behind us. From the abstract:

“Previous research suggests that people construct mental time lines to represent and reason about time. However, is the ability to represent space truly necessary for representing events along a mental time line? Our results are the first to demonstrate that deficits in spatial representation (as a function of left hemispatial neglect) also result in deficits in representing events along the mental time line. Specifically, we show that patients with left hemispatial neglect have difficulty representing events that are associated with the past and, thus, fall to the left on the mental time line. These results demonstrate that representations of space and time share neural underpinnings and that representations of time have specific spatial properties (e.g., a left and a right side). Furthermore, it appears that intact spatial representations are necessary for at least some types of temporal representation.”

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Loneliness promotes inflamation

7 Sep

A study, published in the journal Psychological Science, finds evidence that acute stress and loneliness are sources of inflammation.

Social isolation has been shown to be a risk factor for dementia. It is usually assumed that this is because isolation provides less cognitive engagement than social interaction. This study suggests that loneliness itself may be a risk factor for inflammation. Inflammation has been implicated as a possible cause of dementia.

Meditation improves vagal tone

30 Jul

The vagus nerve emerges directly from the brain is involved in the regulation of a number of organs including the heart and the adrenal glands. Vagal tone refers to the effect that the vagus nerve has on hear rate and is used as a measure of the body’s ability to mediate stress.

A study published this month (pdf) in the prestigious journal Psychological Science, reports that Metta Meditation, sometimes called Loving Kindness Meditation, improves both positive emotion and vagal tone. This was a well designed and controlled experiment and it adds to evidence of the health and psychological benefits of meditation.

The authors conclude:

“Most advice dispensed about how people might improve their physical health calls for increased physical activity, improved nutritional intake, and reductions in tobacco and alcohol use. Alongside this good advice, we now have evidence to recommend efforts to self-generate positive emotions as well. Recurrent momentary experiences of positive emotions appear to serve as nutrients for the human body, increasing feelings of social belonging and giving a needed boost to parasympathetic health, which in turn opens people up to more and more rewarding positive emotional and social experiences. Over time, this self-sustaining upward spiral of growth appears to improve physical health.”

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