Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Memory, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Last week we drove 9 hours south from where we live in order to be in the zone of totality for the eclipse on August 21st. We lucked out (well the location we went to was chosen to maximize our luck in this area) and found a comfortable place to sit and watch the eclipse develop in a cloudless sky. I had debated about whether to have my camera out and with me during the event. I did not have the filters needed to take pictures of the partial eclipse but thought I might try and snap a few pictures during the totality when the moon totally obscured the sun leaving only the solar corona visible. My internal debate turned on the fact that the totality was going to last a grand total of 2 minutes and 18 seconds where we were located and that seemed like a tiny amount of time in which to fully take in the event. On the one hand there was little time to take in the amazing and rare celestial event and I am only an amateur photographer and could download many many better pictures than I could take (even with my fancy Nikon). On the other hand I typically take a few pictures anytime I am somewhere with the purpose of looking at something (e.g., celebrating social events, traveling, hiking etc etc). So what did I do? Well I lost about 20 seconds of the totality struggling with the fact that there was not enough light for me  to see to adjust the ISO setting on my camera but after that I took a few pictures of the eclipse and of the 360 degree sunrise/sunset it created and then just looked at and took in the event in the remaining time of totality. So, should I have avoided taking any pictures in order to ensure I took in the event as deeply as possible? Figure out what your advice to me would be if I go to Argentina in 16 months for another totality (with my camera’s ISO settings set in broad daylight prior to the time of totality!) and then read the article linked below.

Source: Taking Photos Won’t Take Your Out of the Moment, Study Suggests, Steph Yin, Science, New York Times

Date: August 18, 2017

Photo Credit:  mediocre Photos by Mike Boyes, PhD

Links:  Article Link —

So taking pictures does not necessarily take you out of or away from the moments you take them in. In fact, it seems that looking at things around you for possible pictures to take increases the likelihood that you will recall visual information about the situation or events later. Think of it as a sort of sensory tuning effect. However, the purpose for which you are taking the pictures matters! If you are talking pictures to post on social media then you are not really staying in the moment as you are thinking about tour social networks and your profile and not about what you are “seeing”. Aside from this you can also have a look at the article link in the Reference section below that suggests that awe inspiring events (and I can tell you from personal experience that a total eclipse DOES inspire awe) have positive impacts on our happiness. I am not sure if I am happier today than before we went down into the zone of totality but I did enjoy our brief time in the zone immensely and would love to do it again!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might taking pictures of events impact your processing of information and formation of memories related to that event?
  2. Is the question of whether or not to take pictures at important event simply a yes or no question?
  3. What else might be important to know about people’s picture taking habits if we are to make more sense out of the impact of the 1,3 trillion photos taken each year (yes we DO take a LOT of pictures)?

References (Read Further):

Barasch, A., Diehl, K., Silverman, J., & Zauberman, G. (2017). Photographic Memory: The Effects of Volitional Photo Taking on Memory for Visual and Auditory Aspects of an Experience. Psychological Science, 0956797617694868.

Diehl, K., Zauberman, G., & Barasch, A. (2016). How taking photos increases enjoyment of experiences. Journal of personality and social psychology, 111(2), 119.

Can Real Life Compete With an Instagram Playground?

Awe, Happiness, and the Solar Eclipse: New interventions with beauty show a boost to happiness.

Diessner, R., Woodward, D., Stacy, S., & Mobasher, S. (2015). Ten once-a-week brief beauty walks increase appreciation of natural beauty. Ecopsychology, 7, 126 -133. doi: 10.1089/eco.2015.0001

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2016). Nine beautiful things: A self-administered online positive psychology intervention on the beauty in nature, arts, and behaviors increases happiness and ameliorates depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 189-193