The Boston Globe:
MASSACHUSETTS NATIVE PAUL Theroux has roamed the world for decades, visiting countless countries and drawing on his experiences in dozens of published novels, short stories, and volumes of travel writing. He has been everywhere, or as close to everywhere as one man can manage in a peripatetic career. What Theroux doesn’t know about how to travel probably isn’t worth knowing.
Here’s one lesson he has gleaned from a lifetime of roving: The best traveling is done without a camera.
Having thousands of images on your cellphone doesn’t mean you’re remembering more. In fact it might mean just the opposite — that taking pictures to record things is tantamount to “outsourcing our memories,” in the vaguely chilling phrase of Linda A. Henkel, a psychology professor at Fairfield University who studies memory distortion. By relying so compulsively on cameras to “get” the images we’re seeing, Henkel argues, we’re inevitably “taking away from the kind of mental cognitive processing that might help us actually remember [them] on our own.”
She devised an ingenious experiment to test the hypothesis that photographing more means remembering less. She took participants on a tour of an art museum, instructing them to observe and remember some objects, and to photograph others. The results, as she wrote in a paper published in Psychological Science, showed a distinct “photo-taking-impairment effect.” One day after the museum tour, the students remembered significantly fewer visual details about the objects they had photographed. “The act of photographing the object appears to enable people to dismiss the object from memory” because, consciously or not, they relied on the camera to remember for them.
Read the whole story: The Boston GlobeMore of our Members in the Media >