UT study finds taking pictures on vacation improves memory

January 18, 2017

Taking selfies can make a vacation more memorable, according to a study conducted by UT psychology professor Art Markman and Austin-based vacation rental company HomeAway.

Illustration Credit: Jacky Tovar, The Daily Texan

The study, called ‘Science of Memories’, surveyed over 700 HomeAway customers from six countries before, during and after their vacations. A week after the vacation was over, the survey asked participants how well they thought they remembered their trip and then to recall what they could about the trip. Participants who took pictures, including selfies, during their vacations were 40 percent more likely to remember their trip.

Markman said the results of the study were consistent with factors known for improving memory of an event, such as engagement with the event and distinctiveness of the memory.

The study found that vacationers who were excited before their trip were 73 percent more likely to remember the trip better. The study also found that people who traveled with a mixture of friends and family were 20 percent more likely to remember their vacation than those who traveled with just friends, family, as a couple or alone, Markman said.

“Getting excited for the trip in advance increases people’s engagement with the trip, which improves memory,” he said. “Traveling with both family and friends is a distinctive way to travel, and that improves memory.”

Kristin Diehl, a marketing professor from the University of Southern California who studies the relationship between photo-taking and enjoyment of one’s experiences, said she would also recommend that people take photographs while on vacation. She added that people should use simple photography equipment that doesn’t disrupt their experience.

“We find that if photography gets in the way of the experience, it does not increase enjoyment,” Diehl said. “For example, carrying around heavy equipment can do that, so bringing a small camera or just one’s cell phone leads to much better experiences.”

Bringing work along on a vacation affected memory as well: the study found that people who worked for at least one hour per day were 43 percent more likely to forget their vacation than those who left their work at home.

“When people work during their vacation, it tends to dampen their engagement with the trip overall and that can hurt memory [of] the trip,” Markman said.

Markman said that in general the study showed that distinctive and engaging vacation experiences are most memorable.

“To improve memory [of] a trip, it is useful to get excited for it in advance,” he said. “Engage with the people and the sights and sounds. Take pictures and share them with friends. All of those things help you to recall the vacation later.”

HomeAway spokesperson Melanie Fish said HomeAway investigated this research to create a scientific formula for more memorable vacations and better travel experiences for their customers.

“The best thing about HomeAway’s ‘Science of Memories’ study is that anyone can benefit from these easy, science-backed tips,” she said.

Read on The Daily Texan

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