Snapping photos of every detail of your happiest moments could be wrecking your ability to remember them, a new study finds.
"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," says researcher Linda Henkel of Fairfeld University in the U.S.
In the study, Henkel and her team found that people had worse memory for objects, and for specific object details, when they took photos of them. Findings were recently published online in the journal Psychological Science.
To conduct her research, Henkel recruited 28 subjects for a tour of the university's Bellarmine Museum of Art. Subjects paused in front of 30 objects, with subjects randomly assigned to observe 15 artifacts and photograph the other 15. The next day, the research team issued memory tests about the tour, with subjects asked to jot down the names of the objects they saw and respond to questions about details.
Findings showed that subjects had trouble remembering the objects they photographed, something Henkel describes as "photo-taking impairment effect."
"When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences," she explains.
But doesn't your database of digital photos jog the memory? "Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them," says Henkel. "In order to remember, we have to access and interact with the photos, rather than just amass them."
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Get your brain moving - Lumosity
Like the body, your brain responds positively to regular exercise. <a href="http://www.lumosity.com/app/v4/dashboard" target="_blank">Lumosity</a>, a virtual brain workout developed by neuroscientists, delivers up bite-sized games online or via smartphone app, and is designed to strengthen different skills, from vocabulary to spatial awareness, memory and attention. (online – subscribe from £3.74 per month, app iOS - free)
Pick up some new techniques - BBC Brainsmart
<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/brainsmart/" target="_blank">BBC Brainsmart </a>provides a selection of memory training games and techniques to help you boost facial recognition, memorize shopping lists and even manage <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/could-stress-make-your-memory-worse_n_1335868.html" target="_blank">stress levels</a>, which can also adversely affect memory.
Work on your numbers – Math workout
<a href="http://www.mathsworkout.net/" target="_blank">Math Workout</a> is an app designed for adults and children alike that sets daily number challenges to help you improve your numeracy and sharpen your mind at the same time. (Android, iOS - Free/£0.69)
Get your body moving – Jawbone UP
Research shows that physical exercise is good for memory, getting the oxygen flowing to your head and increasing neurotransmitter levels. The <a href="https://jawbone.com/up" target="_blank">Jawbone UP </a>wristband helps you stay active by monitoring your daily exercise, sleep and diet routines, and syncs with your smartphone to let you track your progress. You can even set your wristband to vibrate to remind you to get moving if you’ve been vegging-out for too long. (Jawbone UP - £99.99 for the hardware, syncs with Android and iOS apps)
Get some memory backup – Evernote
When all else fails, write everything down. <a href="https://evernote.com/?utm_expid=6007595-9.C_IyEqenS9mnNzYMCm423Q.0" target="_blank">Evernote</a> lets you keep all of your scribbling in one place as well as take pictures, record audio and save your favorite web pages. You can sync the app to any of your devices to create some pretty sturdy memory backup. (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone - Free)
Set reminders - Life reminders
The <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.payneservices.LifeReminders&hl=en" target="_blank">Life Reminders</a> app lets you set reminders for daily tasks and meetings, enter your contacts to schedule calls with one click and time your emails to go out when you need them to. It’s much cheaper than the long-form hack of a personal assistant, although that said… (Android - free)
Get yourself a virtual assistant
With more of us working remotely than ever, our personal assistants have hopped online too. You may never meet your <a href="http://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk/" target="_blank">VA,</a> but they are just an email or a phone call away and can manage all the usual tasks, including organising your diary, setting reminders and even doing your shopping online. VAs are usually freelance and will often only charge you for the time you use or purchase in advance. (Rates vary, hourly services available)
Practise what you’ve learnt - Flashcards+
Flashcards remain a popular tool for memorising lots of facts fast and there are plenty of apps available to save you the pain of deciphering your own handwriting. <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flashcards/id408490162" target="_blank">Flashcards +</a> lets you create your own custom flashcards or import existing sets via Quizlet. (iOS - free)
Buy yourself a photographic memory: Memoto lifelogging camera
Another memory cheat here. The <a href="http://memoto.com/" target="_blank">Memeto</a> is a wearable camera that takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds, recording the time and place as it goes. When you plug the camera into your computer it will automatically upload photos to cloud storage and uses image algorithms to organise your photos into ‘moments', to remind you how your day went. If the prospect of photographing your whole life freaks you out, you could try something less intrusive, like <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.madrabbit.findit&hl=en" target="_blank">Find It! </a> a simple spot the difference photo app designed to help you improve your attention and boost your visual memory recall. ( Memoto - $279 for the hardware, syncs with Windows / Mac iOS / Android) (Find It! - Android - Free)
Get some sleep – Sleepcycle
Research has shown that a <a href="http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/apr2013/feature2" target="_blank">bad night’s sleep</a> can seriously affect your memory. Downloading the <a href="http://www.sleepcycle.com/" target="_blank">Sleepcycle </a>app to your smart phone and then popping it under your pillow allows you to record and monitor the quality of your sleep. The app includes a 30 minute alarm window that will wake you during your lightest sleep phase, leaving you feeling more refreshed. (iOS - £1.49)