The number of photos we take has increased hugely. How does this change our experience of life?

For many of you listening to this podcast, taking photos of things and people in our lives has become much more common, as well as documenting our experiences of life. Understanding how the act of taking photos may get in the way of or increase our pleasure in these activities seems like an important topic for research. Implicitly, we may hear the message that we should stop taking so many photos and just be in the moment and enjoy our experiences without trying to record everything. But is this true? Does photography – especially using our smartphones – get in the way?

Join me as I talk with Asst Prof Alixandra Barasch, based in the Stern Business School, New York University, USA.

Here is the link to the full paper we talk about in this week’s show:

Here is the abstract for some context:

Experiences are vital to the lives and well-being of people; hence, understanding the factors that amplify or dampen enjoyment of experiences is important. One such factor is photo-taking, which has gone unexamined by prior research even as it has become ubiquitous. We identify engagement as a relevant process that influences whether photo-taking will increase or decrease enjoyment. Across three field and six lab experiments, we find that taking photos enhances enjoyment of positive experiences across a range of contexts and methodologies. This occurs when photo-taking increases engagement with the experience, which is less likely when the experience itself is already highly engaging, or when photo-taking interferes with the experience. As further evidence of an engagement-based process, we show that photo-taking directs greater visual attention to aspects of the experience likely to be photographed. Lastly, we also find that this greater engagement due to photo-taking results in worse evaluations of negative experiences.

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