There's a lot of discussion around having a camera out constantly during experiences. And while the etiquette of it is one question, a recent study shows that taking pictures of enjoyable events does indeed increase one's positive experience of them, as long as a few conditions are met.
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study, "How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences," was created by Kristin Diehl (University of Southern California), Gal Zauberman (Yale University), and Alixandra Barasch (University of Pennsylvania). The researchers examined how the act of taking photos was correlated to levels of engagement with an experience, which determines whether the shooting increases enjoyment. They came to several conclusions:
- Taking photos increases enjoyment of positive experience in a variety of situations.
- This occurs specifically when taking photos increases engagement.
- This effect is less likely to occur when taking photos of an experience that is already engaging at a high level or if the act of shooting hinders the experience of the event. (Wedding and concert-goers, I'm looking at you).
- Taking pictures increases a person's visual attention specifically toward photographically desirable parts of an experience.
- The dual effect is that this increased engagement causes people to have worse feelings toward negative experiences when shooting.
- People tend to take far fewer pictures during negative experiences, which may show a lower desire to be engaged with them.
- Nonetheless, the act of taking pictures (regardless of quantity) increases engagement, whether desired or not.
- This highlights that engagement seems to be the factor that amplifies the experience of both positive and negative events, and photography is a tool for increasing engagement.
It's interesting to see that photography can actually amplify both positive and negative feelings, but I also find it vindicating that an increase in enjoyment is contingent on the act not interfering with the experience of the event. It looks like science is reminding us to take that snapshot for a memory, then put the camera away.