I was interested once in the arts, but I can’t remember now which ones they were

January 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

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In a new study, psychological scientist Linda Henkel of Fairfield University presents data showing that participants had worse memory for objects, and for specific object details, when they took photos of them…

Undergraduates were led on a tour around the museum and were asked to take note of certain objects, either by photographing them or by simply observing them. The next day, their memory for the objects was tested.

The data showed that participants were less accurate in recognizing the objects they had photographed compared to those they had only observed. Furthermore, they weren’t able to answer as many questions about the objects’ visual details for those objects they had photographed.

Henkel calls this the “photo-taking impairment effect”:

“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,” she explains.

A second study replicated these findings, but it also presented an interesting twist: Taking a photograph of a specific detail on the object by zooming in on it with the camera seemed to preserve memory for the object, not just for the part that was zoomed in on but also for the part that was out of frame.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Minami Noritaka

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And now a bubble burst, and now a world

June 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Research investigating overprecision typically involves asking people to come up with a 90% confidence interval around a numerical estimate — such as the length of the Nile River — but this doesn’t always faithfully reflect the judgments we have to make in everyday life. We know, for example, that arriving 15 minutes late for a business meeting is not the same as arriving 15 minutes early, and that we ought to err on the side of arriving early.

Mannes and Moore designed three studies to account for the asymmetric nature of many everyday judgments. Participants estimated the local high temperature on randomly selected days and their accuracy was rewarded in the form of lottery tickets toward a prize. For some trials, they earned tickets if their estimates were correct or close to the actual temperature (above or below); in other trials, they earned tickets for correct guesses or overestimates; and in some trials they earned tickets for correct guesses or underestimates.

The results showed that participants adjusted their estimates in the direction of the anticipated payoff after receiving feedback about their accuracy, just as Mannes and Moore expected.

But they didn’t adjust their estimates as much as they should have given their actual knowledge of local temperatures, suggesting that they were overly confident in their own powers of estimation.

Only when the researchers provided exaggerated feedback — in which errors were inflated by 2.5 times — were the researchers able to counteract participants’ tendency towards overprecision.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Ephlin Cheng

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