If your friends make fun of you for Instagramming brunch, you can savor the knowledge that you might be enjoying your meal more than they are. According to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [PDF], people who use photography to document a pleasurable experience appreciate it more than if they hadn’t captured the moment on camera, The Washington Post reports.
Psychologists conducted a series of nine experiments on about 2000 subjects. They had them take a museum trip, bus tours, a simulated safari, and a meal at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, among other activities. During each excursion, half of the participants were told to take photos. The other half took none.
If an experience was fun (like eating), subjects who took photos reported that they had appreciated it more than those who hadn't channeled their inner shutterbugs. For example, one experiment had nearly 200 participants take bus tours of Philadelphia. The tours forbade cell phones, but one of them gave riders digital cameras. People who took photos reported that they had more fun and felt more engaged in the tour than those who didn’t, TIME reports.
However, photographing an unpleasant situation actually made the experience even worse. During the safari, participants who took photos of a violent fight between lions and a water buffalo had a worse time observing the struggle than people who’d only watched.
Researchers concluded that photography allows you to engage more fully in an experience.
“You hear that you shouldn’t take all these photos and interrupt the experience, and it’s bad for you, and we’re not living in the present moment,” said Kristin Diehl, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. Instead, taking photos might help you look at the world through a new lens (literally and figuratively), helping you notice details you’d normally overlook, she says. In turn, you feel more invested in your surroundings.
In other words, pass the eggs—but wait until we’ve whipped out our smartphones.
[h/t The Washington Post]