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Snap Judgements: A Goal-Mediated Framework of The Transactive Memory System Between Self and Camera

Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

With the rise of smartphones with high-quality digital cameras, we are constantly deciding when and where to take photographs. All of this photo-taking is likely to influence how we interact with and subsequently remember personal events. A photo-taking-impairment effect has been observed such that objects that are photographed can be remembered less well than objects that are not photographed on a subsequent memory test. This effect and other memory effects of interacting with digital technology have been widely cited as evidence that a transactive memory system exists in which users of digital devices can rely on the memory of those digital devices, and so engage in cognitive offloading of memory onto those devices. Several experiments are reported here that provide evidence against an explicit or strategic cognitive offloading account. Two experiments are presented that demonstrate a photo-taking impairment effect even when participants cannot rely on their camera to remember for them, because photos are never saved or are immediately deleted from the device. If participants only offloaded onto a camera when it was strategically advantageous, the photo-taking-impairment effect would at least be attenuated in these delete conditions. Nonetheless, participants still demonstrated the photo-taking-impairment effect. Three more experiments are presented in which participants consistently predicted that photographed objects would be better remembered than non-photographed objects on a subsequent memory test. If participants believed that they had strategically offloaded memory onto the camera, they would have predicted the opposite pattern—relative under-confidence in photographed objects relative to non-photographed objects. Together, these two sets of studies provide evidence against a strategic offloading account. A third set of two studies is presented in which participants were asked to review their own naturalistically taken photos, and report on their recollective experience prompted by reviewing those photos. Both studies provide evidence that photo-taking goals may be important in determining how photographed events are recollected. Informed by these findings, a theoretical framework that characterizes the transactive memory system that might be formed between photo-takers and their cameras is proposed. Photo-taking goals are central to this theoretical framework. Implications and future directions are discussed.

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