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Antisociaal gedrag in crisistijd: waarom jongeren de kroon spannen

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De impact van de corona maatregelen op jongeren
Toen begin maart het corona virus in Nederland werd geconstateerd, ondernam de overheid snel actie: scholen, horeca, bioscopen en alle andere sociale gelegenheden gingen op slot en ‘1,5 meter afstand’ en ‘binnen blijven’ werden de nieuwe levensmotto’s van het overgrote deel van de bevolking. Maar dat deze maatregelen tegen het corona virus moeilijk te handhaven waren werd pijnlijk duidelijk toen Mark Rutte zelf de eerste maatregel ‘geen handen meer schudden’ al in de eerste minuut na aankondiging overtrad. Hoewel de beperkingen dus duidelijk voor vrijwel iedereen lastig zijn, lijken vooral jongeren meer moeite te hebben met de corona maatregelen dan andere leeftijdsgroepen. Opvallend is dat het niet naleven van de maatregelen door jongeren soms leidt tot escalatie van de situatie. Zo zijn sinds het uitbreken van corona veel gevallen gerapporteerd van toenemende agressie, zoals fysiek geweld of spugen, naar handhavers toe. In Rotterdam werden twaalf boa’s geschopt en geslagen door een groepje jongvolwassenen [1] en een agente werd in Amersfoort door jongeren in haar gezicht gespuugd.[2] Toename van dergelijk antisociaal gedrag is een interessante ontwikkeling, zeker als je beseft dat de algehele criminaliteit wereldwijd lijkt af te nemen sinds corona zijn intrede heeft gedaan. Waar komt dit gedrag vandaan en hoe kun je hier als betrokkene het beste mee omgaan?

Sociaal contact in de puberteitMeer dan andere leeftijdsgroepen hebben jongeren behoefte aan sociaal contact. Jongeren zitten in de zogeheten “moratoriumfase”: de periode waarin ze hun identiteit vormgeven en bepalen aan de hand van hun sociale omgeving.[3] Dit maakt hen gevoeliger voor sociale contacten en sociale beloningen, voornamelijk als het om vrienden gaat. Nu zou je kunnen denken: ‘Hartstikke vervelend, maar dan kunnen ze toch alsnog de maatregelen naleven?’ In deze periode zijn jongeren echter minder goed in het inschatten van de consequenties van hun gedrag en handelen.[4] Jongeren nemen in het algemeen al meer risico’s dan andere leeftijdsgroepen, doordat de hersengebieden die betrokken zijn bij het inschatten van consequenties en daar naar handelen zich minder snel ontwikkelen dan gebieden die betrokken zijn bij (sociale) beloningen.[5] De overgevoeligheid voor sociale beloningen zorgt er voor dat bij jongeren de drang om een sociale netwerk draaiende te houden regelmatig de boventoon zal voeren in de overweging om zich te onthouden van sociaal contact. Daarnaast zal deze situatie, die toch ook angst oproept en potentieel gevaarlijk is, lastig zijn en tegen het menselijke instinct in gaan om samen te komen in moeilijke tijden. Het alternatief, waarbij jongeren online samenkomen of hun identiteit exploreren, kan natuurlijk ook risico’s met zich mee brengen en andere soorten antisociaal gedrag in de hand werken, zoals cybercrime. [6]

Bovendien voelen jongeren zich tijdens de puberteit soms onbegrepen en verlangen ze naar de waardering en de privileges die horen bij volwassenheid.[7] Gecombineerd kunnen deze factoren ervoor zorgen dat antisociaal gedrag vertonen als aantrekkelijk wordt gezien door jongeren, bijvoorbeeld om zich af te zetten van hun ouders en om indruk te maken op hun vrienden. Dit is een heel normaal proces in de puberteit: vrijwel elke jongere experimenteert hiermee tijdens deze leeftijdsfase.[8] Voor het grootste deel van deze jongeren blijft dit soort gedrag ook beperkt tot de adolescentie. Er is echter ook een kleiner deel dat gedurende hun leven een hoog risico loopt om in dezelfde antisociale patronen te blijven vervallen. Deze jongeren hebben, in tegenstelling tot die uit de grotere groep, vaak persoonlijke karakteristieken die in hun nadeel werken, zoals neuropsychologische beperkingen (e.g. lager IQ) en minder gunstige omgevingsfactoren (e.g. onstabiele thuissituatie, minder te besteden).

Helaas lijken met name jongeren die al problemen hadden voor de crisis extra vatbaar te zijn om in een negatieve spiraal te komen [9] [10]. Hun dagbesteding valt grotendeels weg en daarmee ook de (dag)structuur, hetgeen juist van belang is voor deze jongeren. Ook raken veel jongeren door de Corona-crisis in geldproblemen [11], wat potentieel extra zwaar weegt voor jongeren in kwetsbare situaties, omdat zij vaak minder toegang hebben tot stabiele financiële ondersteuning door ouders. Dat dit leidt ook tot zorgen bij hulpverleners in de jeugdzorg, bleek uit een online congres over ‘Kwetsbare jongeren in coronatijd’ van MEE NL [12]. Zij signaleren een toename van verveling, angst, verslavingsproblematiek, eenzaamheid, agressie en mishandeling. Tevens gaven de professionals aan dat de maatregelen niet alleen zorgen voor verergering van problematiek bij de kwetsbare jongeren; het zorgt er ook voor dat hulpverlening moeilijker wordt. Doordat hulpverleners gedwongen zijn over te gaan op digitale communicatie is het moeilijker om contact te leggen of om te achterhalen hoe de jongere zich echt voelt. Dit zorgt ervoor dat zij uit het oog worden verloren en mogelijk sneller terugvallen in antisociaal gedrag. Juist om deze reden is het van belang dat er door verschillende partijen die hier invloed op kunnen uitoefenen wordt nagedacht over manieren om de problemen onder jongeren te minimaliseren.

Hoe help je jongeren op een veilige manier de coronacrisis door?

  1. Laat zien dat je de jongere waardeert en ga op een respectvolle manier het gesprek aan;
  2. Laat jongeren mee denken en meepraten over oplossingen: waar maken zij zich zorgen over? Welke gevolgen ervaren zij van de crisis? Welke oplossingen zien zij? Via de hashtag #ikpraatmee worden jongeren aangespoord om hun stem te laten horen;
  3. Benader de jongeren op een manier die voor hen het meest toegankelijk is, zoals bijvoorbeeld via sociale media of een app, zoals de ‘Grow it’ app, die jongeren inzicht geeft in hoe zij zich voelen en zich richt op ondersteuning bij negatieve emoties als gevolg van de coronacrisis;
  4. Als je merkt dat een jongere het moeilijk heeft en je wil verwijzen naar informatie die verder kan helpen, zoals Grip op je Dip of GeldChecker met en speciale editie over de coronacrisis;
  5. Als jongeren zich online willen ontwikkelen kunnen ze hun hun vaardigheden op veilige manieren testen. Voorbeelden zijn Hack the box Certified Secure of OWASP juice shop.

Tot slot…
Het stof rondom de piek van de Corona-crisis begint inmiddels te dalen en het aantal ziekenhuisopnames en besmettingen neemt langzaam af. Dit betekent dat we naar versoepelingen van de maatregelen kunnen kijken en dat jongeren hun sociale leven mogelijk steeds meer kunnen vormgeven zoals voor de crisis. Voor veel jongeren is er sprake (geweest van) een knikje in hun “moratoriumfase”. Vermoedelijk heeft een groot deel van deze jongeren de juiste handvatten en ondersteuning om hier adaptief mee om te gaan, mede vanwege de relatief korte duur van deze situatie. Toch zal het versoepelen van de maatregelen de negatieve gevoelens en problematiek die sommige jongeren hebben ervaren niet direct oplossen. Dit komt niet alleen doordat een deel van de maatregelen van kracht blijft; een situatie lost zich nu eenmaal niet direct op als de veroorzakende factor weg is. Dit geldt met name voor bestaande problemen bij kwetsbare jongeren. Kenmerkend voor jongeren in kwetsbare situaties is dat een aantal maanden een groot verschil kan maken; bepaalde keuzes en gedragingen die zij maken (of voor hen gemaakt worden) ten tijde van de Corona-crisis kunnen bepalend zijn voor de toekomst van de jongere. Om deze reden is het belangrijk dat juíst deze kwetsbare groep jongeren wordt gehoord en ondersteund, niet alleen voor hun eigen welzijn, maar ook in het belang van de samenleving. 

Deze blogpost is geschreven door Ilse van de Groep en Merel Spaander en verscheen in 2020 op de NeurolabNL blog.

News

How COVID-19 Influences Youth Delinquency

Yesterday, Ilse van de Groep was interviewed by Radio 1 presenter Myrthe van der Drift. During the interview, they discussed the recent increase in juveline delinquency, the RESIST project and how juvenile delinquency is influenced by the current COVID crisis. You can listen to the interview here.

Blog News

Connecting Society Together

SYNC stands for Society, Youth and Neuroscience Connected. This is not just a catchy acronym; it truly reflects our mission: To bridge multiple levels of measurement to understand how young people develop into contributing members of society. All of society: regardless of origin, skin color, gender, education level, or sexual preference.

We are concerned about how the recent events of continuous violence and brutal deaths of Black people in the United States of America affect the wellbeing of Black youth and youth of color all over the world. We cannot ignore the fact that also in the Netherlands some of our Black youth are dealing with racism on a daily basis. Institutionalized racism exists here too. All of us at the SYNC lab believe that now is not a time of silence. We speak up against racism and we stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, fellow Black scientists, and the Black community. As a research group we aim to work on providing the scientific building blocks needed to help shape a better future for the current and next generation of youth – all youth.

In order to make progress and enable equality, it is not enough to just “not be racist”, we must speak out and strive for anti-racist strategies. We want to use our platform to not only get a better understanding of the current protest situations and the wellbeing of Black youth and other minorities, but also share our knowledge on racism, White privilege and implicit biases. One way to do so is by looking into what we have learned from psychological research and neuroscience. Here we share some important psychological and neuroscientific factors that might influence our knowledge on racism. However, we acknowledge that making a statement and sharing our knowledge is not enough. We also want to make an effort to improve our own learning and practices, and provide some starting points below.

Identity
Racism is often defined as the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed to a person based on the belief that your race is inherently superior of the other person’s race. Many people do not identify themselves as racists. It is important to acknowledge that racism is a complex phenomenon that should be seen as a continuum rather than a dichotomous construct. While most people agree that what happened to George Floyd is beyond all human understanding and that Black lives cannot be lost this way, a large part of our society still struggles to see the less overt and more subtle forms of racial inequality. Many people do not realize that their thoughts and actions may still contribute to the prejudiced system that threatens Black people. It is far more difficult to get united, speak up against and counteract those racial prejudices that are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

As we will explain below, such subtle forms of racial prejudices can be partially explained by psychological mechanisms that help us understand the world around us. During our lives, our brain processes a vast amount of information, and to help us quickly crunch through all of it, our brain often relies on shortcuts. For instance, one way to speed up our information processing is by sorting information into categories (e.g. a dog is an animal) and coupling this information with how we feel about a certain category. Below, we will explain how this quick-and-dirty brain processing can result in implicit biases and ingroup vs. outgroup thinking.

Implicit biases
Implicit bias is considered to be a rather automatic and unconscious process of associating attitudes towards people. Several studies indicate that on a group level White people show discrepancies between explicit attitudes towards other races and implicit racial prejudices. Most individuals are not aware that implicit biases can just be beneath the surface. However, these implicit racial biases may contribute to racial disparities in for instance health care settings or conflict situations. Neuroscience research showed that the amygdala, a region located deep in the brain, plays a role in implicit bias.Scientific studies have also shown that the brain is a flexible organ and new connections between brain regions can be made as a result of learning and to overcome prejudice. We can learn to be better.

Ingroup vs. outgroup
The second process is ingroup vs. outgroup thinking, a process of social categorization by putting some people in one group based on certain characteristics, such as race, and others in another group. While belonging to groups and understanding the world in terms of categories has several evolutionary and social advantages, it can also result in unwanted biases. People tend to have stronger positive feelings and special treatments for their ingroup members, while having negative feelings towards outgroup members. These processes are also driven by affective systems in the brain. Neuroscientific studies have shown that change requires effort but it is possible. The last couple of days people may have gotten the feeling that this all about Black vs. White, while in fact it is about everyone vs. racism.

As noted earlier, it is possible to overcome these biases: we can learn to do better. For a large part, this has to do with expanding our experiences beyond what we already know and learning from other perspectives. During our lives, we not only learn about categories and our attitudes towards them from our own experiences, but also from experiences of other people, and from what we encounter on TV or social media. Interestingly, then, as we will explain below, adolescents are the designated developmental group to teach us how to break down bias and expand our perspective.

Adolescence: a time of reflection and possibilities
During the past few days, you may have noticed that adolescents (of all ethnicities) make up a large portion of the individuals who actively stand in solidarity with the Black community – for instance by protesting on the streets. One of the main developmental tasks of adolescents is to form their own identity in an ever-changing social world. Interestingly, during this period, youngsters develop perspective taking skills that enable them to understand other people’s minds and consider perspectives that are different from their own.

Adolescents conform to social norms of the group they want to belong to, which helps them to develop their identity and each generation forms new norms. Two decades of developmental neuroscience have shown that the brain matures well into adolescence. Adolescence is a period of brain growth and specialization; it is a time of reflection; a phase were youngsters explore the world and form their identity. Most importantly: Adolescence is a period of hope.    

We can learn from adolescence by taking the time for reflection, to demine what is important for us. To step out of our comfort zone and form new norms. We at the SYNC lab want to shape a better future for the current and next generation of youth. And what better way than to start with ourselves. Because the question is not if we can do better, but how we can do better.

How can we do better?
1.Inclusive research samples
Although we have made some steps to diversify our research samples, we recognize that we still have much to learn and improve. Therefore, we want to make an effort to make our samples more diverse and representative of the whole population. For this purpose, we will (1) pay more attention to all facets of diversity (i.e., origin, skin color, gender, education level, and sexual preference), and (2) align our recruitment strategy accordingly – choosing the appropriate channels to reach a diverse group of participants and minimize issues that may prevent certain sub-groups from participating.

2. Inclusive education and work environment
Another essential aspect of our work and responsibility involves education – whether it pertains to teaching our knowledge and skills to university students or to society more broadly, in the form of outreach or policy recommendations. We need to consider how to be more inclusive and supportive in the opportunities we provide to a wide arrange of students, what the most appropriate channels are for sharing our findings to reach all of society, and how we can make sure that policy recommendations do not exclude important sub-groups of our population. We are developing SMART rules to get there.

3. Include all voices
In all of these aforementioned activities (e.g. Research, Education, Outreach), we realize that it is not enough to try to understand what we could improve upon on our own. In all (the stages of) our activities, we need to hear other voices, to help us expand our view and understand what is important for all of society. That is the ultimate way to truly getsociety, youth and neuroscience connected.

Do you want to share your voice and help us in our effort? Contact our (faculty) diversity office (dendulk@essb.eur.nl denktas@essb.eur.nl) or find out more on the diversity and inclusion page on the EUR website. 

On behalf of the entire SYNC-lab;
Eveline Crone, Professor
Michelle Achterberg, post doc
Ilse van de Groep, PhD candidate
Kayla Green, research assistant
Philip Brandner, PhD candidate
Dorien Huijser, research assistant
Suzanne van de Groep, PhD candidate
Lina van Drunen, PhD candidate
Simone Dobbelaar, PhD candidate
Sophie Sweijen, research assistant
Andrik Becht, post doc
Renske van der Cruijsen, PhD candidate
Eduard Klapwijk, post doc
Jochem Spaans, PhD candidate

This blogpost was written by Michelle Achterberg, Kayla Green and Ilse van de Groep and appeared on the Sync Lab Blog in June 2020.


Blog News

When the mind’s eye is blind: why do some people lack mental imagery?

While most of us can experience mental imagery, some people cannot vividly imagine pictures in their mind – and they function just fine. This raises the question: what do we even need mental imagery for? And how problematic is a lack of mental imagery?

Picture your best friend, standing in front of you… What does she look like? Perhaps you vividly imagine the strands of her blond hair, the dimples in her cheeks, the freckles on her nose… Or maybe no image comes to mind at all – even though you know what she looks like. While the experience of mental imagery is common to many of us, some people don’t experience voluntary mental imagery – a condition which is referred to as aphantasia. Interestingly, many people with this condition seem to function perfectly fine, which raises the question: what do we even need mental imagery for? And how problematic is a lack of mental imagery?

Why would we need mental imagery?
Now that we have established that mental imagery is not fundamental for us to perform our daily activities, what is the use of mental imagery? We may gain a better understanding of its function by considering the variation in the strength of mental imagery. In other words, we may determine the use of mental imagery by examining how individuals with different imagery abilities function. Some individuals have a lot of difficulty with visualization (i.e.,. aphantasics), whereas others are at the other end of the spectrum, showing very strong and vivid imagery (i.e., hyperphantasics). Research covering this wide range of individual differences seems to suggest that mental imagery helps some people to remember and learn from their own experiences, perform complex mental functions, and prepare for future situations. As such, it primarily seems to be a useful tool for adapting our lives to the demands of both current and future situations.

Why do some people lack mental imagery?
So some people don’t experience mental imagery – why is this? Are they really unable to see these mental images? Or is it that they can actually see these images, but that can’t access the information? In a recent set of studies, Australian researchers devised a clever experimental set-up involving binocular rivalry to answer these questions. Binocular rivalry occurs when two images are simultaneously presented, one to each eye. Rather than the images being superimposed, we perceive one of the images for a short time, and subsequently the other, until it changes again. Earlier, the researchers had found that they could influence which of the two images was prioritized by asking people to visualize the respective image. However, if in the aphantasics the mental imagery is actually impaired, they should not show this prioritization boost. As expected, the controls showed enhanced prioritization, whereas performance in the aphantasics was unaffected. Hence, it seems that the underlying issue truly is a lack of visualization, rather than poor metacognition.

Is a lack of mental imagery problematic?
Over the past few years, mental imagery has been linked to a wide range of functions we use in everyday life, including memory, reading comprehension, creativity, sports, and moral decision making. Does that mean that aphantasics perform more poorly in some of these areas, simply because they don’t use mental imagery? There is some evidence that memory functioning might be altered: aphantasics have more difficulty performing complex visual working memory tasks, may not ‘relive’ their memories the same way, or could think differently about anticipated events in the future. However, there are also numerous accounts of scientists and artists who have aphantasia, but nevertheless excel in their creative careers. Take Glen Keane, for instance: the illustrator of The Little Mermaid. Despite his condition, he managed to create the powerful image of the red-haired Ariel. This suggests that a lack of mental imagery is not necessarily problematic – aphantasics might just use different strategies or brain areas to perform a wide range of functions in everyday life. In addition, dampened visual imagery could possibly also make people less vulnerable for mental and neurobiological disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease. Thus, there seem to be both upsides and downsides to having aphantasia.

Conclusion
When you tried to picture your best friend, did your mind’s eye make a vivid picture? If so, it might be helpful for you to know that this ability can help you handle the demands of current and future situations. Think you might rather have aphantasia? Don’t fret! As we have seen, mental imagery is not fundamental to live your everyday life. Besides, you are likely equipped with a great alternative set of strategies to solve problems – and you might be less prone to developing imagery-related mental illness!

This blog was published on the Leiden Psychology Blog in 2020.

Blog News

Why are we so obsessed by true crime stories?

True crime stories like Making a Murderer, Serial, and Dirty John are extremely popular. But why are millions of people, especially women, so obsessed with true crime stories? And is it actually a good thing?

“I didn’t think all these people would care”. Steven Avery, the central figure of the Netflix hit Making a Murderer, couldn’t have been more wrong when he uttered these words in disbelief and wonder. Because as it turned out, people did care: over the past few years, millions of people around the world have followed Avery’s story, making it one of the most popular and talked-about documentaries in recent years. True crime stories seem to become more popular by the day, with new stories spawning through various media such as TV shows, books and podcasts. But why are millions of people, especially women, so obsessed with true crime stories? And is it actually a good thing? Research suggests that engaging with true crime stories may offer us some benefits for future situations, but we should be careful not to take our obsession too far.

True crime stories help us to prepare for future crime-related situations

Recently, many explanations have been put forward for why people tend to be hooked on true crime stories. Some have suggested that such stories are addictive because they offer an adrenaline rush which makes us feel good, whereas others hypothesize that true crime stories allow us to explore frightening and horrific situations in a safe, controlled way. Surprisingly, few of these claims are actually based on empirical evidence. One of the few studies conducted on this topic suggests that true crime stories are appealing because they provide us with valuable information on how we can avoid becoming a victim of crime ourselves, or how we might survive if we ended up in such an unwanted situation. Interestingly, this seems particularly true for women. But why would women be more interested in crime, especially when you consider that men are more likely to be victims? One possible explanation is that women are more afraid of being a victim of a violent crime, and are therefore more interested in survival-related information.

Make sure that you don’t take your obsession too far

So should women all start binge-watching true crime series to prepare themselves for unsafe situations? Perhaps that’s not the best idea, as heightened attention to crime may inadvertently increase and maintain women’s fear, inducing a vicious circle of fear. This maintenance effect is likely to result from anxious people’s reinforced belief that the imagined future crime-related situations are more likely to occur than they actually are. Other possible unwanted side effects of true crime overexposure include paranoia or or reduced risk-taking in relatively safe situations.

What if you already have taken it too far?

Some studies suggest that suppressing recurring future fears can be helpful to regain a positive outlook on the future. However, this approach is not as effective in people with high (trait) levels of anxiety, and may therefore not be the best solution in this case. Arguably, it might be more effective to limit your exposure to crime related information. This way, you won’t constantly reinforce your beliefs about the likelihood of future crime-related events where you are the victim, will be less likely to maintain an enduringly high level of fear.

Can true crime stories also help to ‘make’ murderers?

You might wonder, if true crime stories can provide us – as possible victims – with valuable lessons for future situations, does the same hold true for perpetrators? That is, might these stories help some individuals to actually acquire knowledge that is relevant for committing a crime? A recent study suggests that that individuals who are into true crime stories do indeed have more forensic knowledge that may prevent them from being caught. However, this is not necessarily the result of them engaging with such stories: it may also be that individuals with higher interest in forensics tend to seek out shows that revolve around crime-related information. Thus, it remains unclear whether true crime stories might help perpetrators prepare for crime-related future situations.

Conclusion

Why are we so obsessed with true crime stories? The exact answer to this question is complex and multifaceted, but one important factor is that these kinds of stories can help prospective victims preparefor future encounters with perpetrators. That doesn’t mean that you should start binge-watching true crime shows though, especially if you are prone to anxiety or afraid of future crime-related events. Make sure to monitor your levels of anxiety and tone down your engagement with true crimes stories if you feel your fears are taking over!

This blog was featured on the Leiden Psychology Blog in March 2019

Blog News

Does social media use prevent us from remembering the moments we try to preserve?

Imagine yourself at a party, enjoying drinks with your friends. You are having a great time and decide to snap a picture and post it on Instagram. This will surely help you remember this moment, right? Well, it might, but it will also alter your experience.

Every day, millions of people document and share their experiences on social media, posting about their friends, families, food choices and recent travels. Indeed, saving these moments for ourselves and sharing them with others has become increasingly important, paving the way for new ways of communication and social connection. Interestingly, engaging in this type of behavior may have several perks, as it seems to improve people’s mood and also foster interpersonal benefits, such as the development of trust and a more prosocial orientation towards others. However, recent studies suggest that the very act of documenting and sharing moments may actually alter our memories of these experiences. Does the use of social media ironically prevent us from remembering the moments we try to preserve? In other words, should or shouldn’t we post pictures of our experiences to memorize them?

Does social media use affect memory?
In a series of three studies, American researchers have demonstrated that taking pictures and videos for social media use can impair people’s memories. Participants were asked to watch a TED talk (study 1) or go on self-guided tours of a church on Stanford University’s campus (studies 2 and 3). During these activities, they were asked to record their experience in various ways, including by writing down their thoughts and experiences (either for personal use, sharing purposes or with no specific purpose), by reflecting on these aspects internally, or by describing their physical environment (to distract them from the experience). Across studies, media use resulted in impaired memory for the events, irrespective of whether the recordings would be preserved or shared with others.

Your camera as an external memory device
What is the likely culprit of this media-use induced memory impairment? Based on the aforementioned findings, some researchers believe that the impairment may occur while recording the event. This idea is in line with several studies on the so-called photo-taking-impairment effect (i.e., taking pictures impairs memories). A common explanation for this effect is based on the idea of transactive memory, where the burden of remembering something is shared among several people, or in this case, between a person and a camera. In a recent set of studies, researchers of the University of California tested this offloading hypothesis. Camera use resulted in impaired memories, regardless of whether participants believed that they could use their camera as transactive memory partner. As such, these results suggest that  the offloading hypothesis may not (fully) explain media-use induced memory impairment.

Your camera as a visual spotlight
An alternative explanation holds that recording an event may either disengage or distract people from the experience, or primarily focuses their attention on specific aspects of the experience. In both cases, this causes people to process the experience differently. Although this idea requires further testing, some preliminary evidence supports the hypothesis. A group of researchers from the United States showed that taking pictures (which is an visually-oriented activity) led participants to attend to visual rather than auditory aspects of their experiences. Visual memory proved particularly strong for the photographed aspects of the experience. As such, this study suggests that recording an event may actually even boost our memories, albeit in a biased fashion.

Conclusion
Now that we know about the possible effects of media use on our memories, should you still post pictures of that epic party to your Instagram stories? If you aim to experience it on as many levels as possible, it is probably best if you don’t. On the other hand, taking pictures and sharing them may help you focus on the aspects of an experience that are particularly important or salient to you. Moreover, it allows you to revisit (the photographed details of) the experience, which may ultimately result in an even better (but also more biased) memory. So if you want to record and share something on social media, make sure that you capture what you want to remember!

This blog was featured on the Leiden Psychology Blog in September 2018.

News

New Website NeuroLabNL

The new website for NeuroLabNL is online! You can find the website here.  


 

What is NeuroLabNL? Neurolab is a Dutch knowledge hub for Brain-, Cognitive and Behavioral research, connecting professionals from universities (of applied sciences), knowledge institutions, government and social organizations. These professionals collaborate on research within (and beyond) four themes: (1) Education, (2) Safety/Security, (3) Health and (4) Fundamental research. I am involved in one of the sub-projects about safety/security, which is focused on the development of antisocial and delinquent behavior in Youth.