Does taking multiple photos lead to a photo-taking-impairment effect?

Psychon Bull Rev. 2022 Dec;29(6):2211-2218. doi: 10.3758/s13423-022-02149-2. Epub 2022 Jul 19.


The photo-taking-impairment effect is observed when photographed information is less likely to be remembered than nonphotographed information. Three experiments examined whether this effect persists when multiple photos are taken. Experiment 1 used a within-subjects laboratory-based design in which participants viewed images of paintings and were instructed to photograph them once, five times, or not at all. Participants' memory was measured using a visual detail test, and the photo-taking-impairment effect was observed when participants took multiple photos. Experiment 2 examined the photo-taking-impairment effect using a between-subjects design. Participants either photographed all of the paintings they saw once, five times, or not at all, before being tested on their memory for the paintings. The photo-taking-impairment effect was observed in both photo-taking conditions relative to the no photo baseline. Experiment 3 replicated this pattern of results even when participants who took multiple photos were instructed to take five unique photos. These findings indicate that the photo-taking-impairment effect is robust, occurring even when multiple photos are taken, and after nonselective photo-taking.

Keywords: Cognitive offloading; Distributed cognition; Extended memory; Photo-taking-impairment effect.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Paintings*
  • Photography* / methods