The Phone Trade-Off

Smartphone photography isn’t making us dumber. It’s shifting the way our minds work, refocusing our attention.

Alixandra Barasch is a cognitive scientist at NYU. In her work, she finds that, yes, incessant smartphone camera use can lead to lapses in memory. But, more importantly, she finds a wrinkle: Cameras can also focus our attention to enhance memory.

She’s run similar studies to the one at Stanford, where participants either take photos or don’t take photos while on a museum tour. When instructed to take photos of an exhibit, her participants were more likely to remember visual aspects of their experience (the art and artifacts they saw) than if they didn’t take photos. But there’s a trade-off: The participants snapping photos were less likely to remember information they heard.

Brian Resnick writing in Vox