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Constantly taking photos may mess with your memory

Research from Fairfield University suggests that all that iPhone and Galaxy snapping may hinder our ability to actually remember real life.

Remember when?
Apple/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

All right, Apple. It's like this.

You like to tell us that more people take pictures with the iPhone than any other camera.

You like to make ads in which, if you're not taking a picture of something, you can't be said to be living.

But just stop it. You might be messing with our memory.

That, at least, seems to be the conclusion from a depressingly modern piece of research performed by the Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Published in Psychological Science, this study took its subjects on a tour of an art museum, then tested their memory of the artifacts, period, and of the details of those artifacts.

The conclusion was that those who had photographed objects had far worse recollection of ever having seen the artifacts at all or, if they did remember seeing them, of details within those objects.

On the other hand, if the aim of their point-and-shoot was to capture one particular detail only, that detail was well remembered.

Linda Henkel, who led the study, described this phenomenon as a "photo-taking impairment effect."

Of course, it could be that the subjects' memories weren't directly affected by the photo-taking, but rather by their sheer interest in that particular work of art.

And then there's the problem that the 28 subjects were actually students. Can you really base research on those notoriously wayward beings?

But as Henkel was quoted in the Telelgraph: "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."

She added: "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."

Still, what are you supposed to do? Your smartphones have made it far too easy for you to capture everything.

It's quite natural, then, to shoot first and ask questions of your memory later.

Perhaps quite soon the only way we'll remember we were anywhere is by referring to our picture libraries.

What strange people we will then have become.