Photos and memory

Kimberley A Wade, Sophie J Nightingale, Melissa Colloff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We live in a world where we witness news and international events as they happen. Information is sent and received rapidly, thanks to ever-advancing social networks and fiber-optic communication. But this process of passing information around is wide open to abuse, particularly when information is fabricated or irrelevant and uncritically passed on. Consider, for example, the photographs that circulated on the Internet in October 2012 as Hurricane Sandy swept across New York. Striking images of apocalyptic-looking clouds looming over Manhattan spread around Twitter and Facebook. Photos of a rogue shark swimming through the streets of New Jersey also popped up, but then again, this shark appears every time a major weather event occurs (see: These jaw-dropping images were compelling and dramatic, but the events they depicted were not real. It would be fine, of course, if we could dismiss such captivating, yet fake, images as light entertainment or jokes shared amongst friends. But psychological science suggests we don’t. We place faith in photographs to accurately depict real-world events. We use images to inform our judgements, to make decisions, and to remind us who we are. And whilst we might carefully choose the friends, experts, and newspaper and media outlets we follow, we often pass over photographs uncritically, because photographs are entertaining, or provocative, or they – more dangerously – fit with our worldview. As British big-data artist Eric Drass points out: “The legitimacy of information is dependent on the trustworthiness of the source, but often this is unclear, and often overpowered by a compelling image.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFalse and distorted memories
EditorsRobert Nash, James Ost
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPsychology Press Ltd
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic) 9781317566397
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2016


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