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Modern studies are self-contradicting, with some saying that taking photos is self-improving, while others say it can lead to impairments. A report by MailOnline said that accomplishing two tasks at once, taking pictures and viewing them, is the actual cause of damage in memory related to the photographed objects.

Using art to test memory

The report resulted from a study by authors who used a series of experiments to conclude. In the experiments, study authors involved over 500 participants who were tested using several pieces of artwork, including photographs, paintings, and sketches.

Some of the study subjects were asked to take pictures of the artwork pieces while the rest watched them. They were then required to accomplish a memory test on the art pieces after the exercise.

The study was titled “Photo-Taking Impairs Memory on Perceptual and Conceptual Memory Tests” and was published in Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. The study aimed to test two kinds of object categorization in the human brain. The two types of categorization are conceptual and perpetual categorizations.

The Journal of Anthropology Psychology explains that perpetual categorizations involve specific details perceived about the object and calculates the resemblance of each object relative to another. On the other hand, conceptual categorization is notions and concepts that relate things to what they do. For a conceptual memory test, the participants declared if they had seen two other ‘foils’ visually similar images.

Photographed work was harder to recall

The easier conceptual test involved recognizing prior studied concepts, positioned alongside two other foils. The study authors explained that foils were chosen to be conceptually and perceptually alike and consisted of two pieces from the same artist or two pieces from different artists but representing the same object. After both a 20- minute brief break and a 48- hour delay between looking and recalling the participants, the researchers found that photographed work was remembered more poorly.