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

January 9, 2014 § Leave a comment


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

No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money; all available ethnography suggests there has never been such a thing

September 24, 2013 § Leave a comment


What do you usually experience when you read?

Some people say that they generally hear the words of the text in their heads, either in their own voice or in the voices of narrator or characters; others say they rarely do this. Some people say they generally form visual images of the scene or ideas depicted; others say they rarely do this. Some people say that when they are deeply enough absorbed in reading, they no longer see the page, instead playing the scene like a movie before their eyes; others say that even when fully absorbed they still always visually experience the words on the page.

Some quotes:

Baars (2003): “Human beings talk to themselves every moment of the waking day. Most readers of this sentence are doing it just now.”

Jaynes (1976): “Right at this moment… as you read, you are not conscious of the letters or even of the words, or even of the syntax or the sentences, or the punctuation, but only of their meaning.”

Titchener (1909): “I instinctively arrange the facts or arguments in some visual pattern [such as] a suggestion of dull red… of angles rather than curves… pretty clearly, the picture of movement along lines, and of neatness or confusion where the moving lines come together.”

Wittgenstein (1946-1948): While reading “I have impressions, see pictures in my mind’s eye, etc. I make the story pass before me like pictures, like a cartoon story.”

Burke (1757): While reading “a very diligent examination of my own mind, and getting others to consider theirs, I do not find that one in twenty times any such picture is formed.”

Hurlburt (2007): Some people “apparently simply read, comprehending the meaning without images or speech. Melanie’s general view… is that she starts a passage in inner speech and then “takes off” into images.”

Alan and I can find no systematic studies of the issue.

We recruited 414 U.S. mechanical Turk workers to participate in a study on the experience of reading. First we asked them for their general impressions about their own experiences while reading. How often — on a 1-7 scale from “never” to “half of the time” to “always” — do they experience visual imagery? Inner speech? The words on the page?  read more


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