Photos, Experiencing Selves, Remembering Selves

I might be the only serviceman who returned from the Far East without a 33mm camera. I’ve never wanted to bother with a camera. When I’m a tourist, I want to experience the trip, and not be troubled with a camera. I prefer to buy postcards to remember the trip. I think today there is money to be made by those who will photoshop your personal pictures into photos of exotic places. This could save a fortune for those who would have their personal pictures in these photos. They would be able both to impress and to bore their friends with their phoney vacation photos while saving a fortune. Fortunately, my wife is very good with cameras, so I never bother with them. Nevertheless I rarely look at the photos she takes of our vacations. I enjoy remembering the vacations, but I find it depressing when I look at the pictures years later. We just look older. The satisfaction of the vacations lies in my memories.

Daniel Kahneman makes a distinction between our experiencing selves and our remembering selves in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. He has done some interesting research pointing to differences in what we experience and what we remember. People who take many photos during their vacations my be sacrificing the quality of both their experiencing and their remembering selves.s

There was an interesting research report, “A Not-So-Photographic Memory in the June/July 2014 AARP The Magazine. This report was of a study done by cognitive psychologist Linda Henkel at Connecticut’s Fairfield University. The students toured a museum and told to look at 30 objects and to take photos of half of them. The next day students could remember nearly 90 percent of the items they observed, but only 78 percent of the items they photographed. So when on vacation you could pass on taking photographs or follow the advice offered by Henkel, “…think about what you are photographing, and talk about them. The act of reminiscing helped the memory not just taking a photo.” In other words, don’t sacrifice your experiencing self when you are taking photos. Your remembering self will benefit from your experiencing self.

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