Fairfield University Professor Studies How Photos Relate To Memories

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Psychological Science recently published an article from Fairfield University professor of psychology Linda Henkel.
Psychological Science recently published an article from Fairfield University professor of psychology Linda Henkel. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Fairfield University professor of psychology Linda Henkel's research into photo-taking and memory was published in the Dec. 5 issue of Psychological Science, a prestigious journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

 In research conducted with undergraduate students in the University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art, Henkel found that museum-goers who took photos of works of art while walking around a museum had worse memory for the objects and for specific object details.

“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,” Henkel said.

Henkel enlisted a team of psychology majors to conduct the study, which grew out of a conversation she had in the lab with Alyssa Accomando. The group included Chelsea Morales and Andrea Teofilo.

Katelyn Parisi developed a follow-up study for independent research looking at the effects on memory if the individual is in the photo in question. 

“From there, the idea just took off and soon enough developed into my independent research study,” Parisi said. “The findings thus far show that when people look at photos that they are in, it changes the perspective from which they remember the event.

“Being able to conduct research as an undergraduate has been an incredibly enriching experience. The fact that I had the opportunity to take a random idea, something I was simply curious about, and turn it into my own research study still amazes me every day.”

Henkel said she was thrilled she and her students could move out of the lab and into a real-world situation right on campus.

“This was an amazing opportunity to extend my laboratory research into the more complex world of everyday life, using stimuli far richer and engaging than would otherwise be possible in the confines of my lab,” she said. “Ultimately students got to see that psychological science is all around us, and the world literally is our lab.”

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