Photos with People Are Most Memorable, Landscapes Are Least

A group of neuroscientists at MIT recently conducted a study to try and determine what makes photographs memorable. After gathering about 10,000 diverse photos, they showed a series of them to human subjects and asked them to identify whenever a photo was a repeat of one previously shown. They found that photos containing people in them are the most memorable, while natural landscapes are least memorable and easily forgotten.

What’s more, the scientists used the findings to develop a computer algorithm that can quantify how memorable a particular photo is. Cameras in the future might be able to tell you the memorability of photos as you’re taking them!

(via PhysOrg via Photoxels)

Image credits: Photographs by the Oliva and Torralba labs

  • Sebastián Soto

    I’ll drop my camera the day it tells me ‘Don’t take that photo! No one will remember it!”

  • Bas ter Beek

    Isn’t it quite obvious that landscape photo’s are alot similar, while photo’s with people are more unique? Don’t need a study at MIT to tell you that…

  • Pbergen1

    I would argue that memorability has little to do with how good a photograph is.  I would remember a graphic car crash photo over a subtle landscape but so what…landscapes are getting a little too much bad press these days.  I fear they are also victims of the “I can only respond to dramatic quick payoffs” attitude prevalent in most other things.

  • Tatyana Skymyrka

    come to think of it, i can name maybe at most 2 landscape photographers off hand, but at least a dozen documentary/journalist photographer names…

  • cyclone

    The human brain is hardwired to recognise familiar faces, this research is totally unsurprising.

  • Chris McClanahan

    i would agree that a photograph being ‘memorable’ does not imply that it is a better photograph, or that i would enjoy it more – ex: use it as my wallpaper… 

  • Khip Ormsby

    Strange, I never would have thought this… Oh wait, I have always thought this to be the case; though, I’ll never stop doing landscape photography, it’s far more enjoyable to me. :D

  • MattB

    And one doesn’t count because it is Ansel Adams…

  • Matrixbjj

    Throw a few hundred more narcissistic facebook-style self portraits at the test subjects and see how memorable portraits are….
    Actually, that would be a good line of research…it could lead to a camera that would automatically turn off if it detected someone trying to take a self portrait using the bathroom mirror (or self-destruct in the case of an attempted bathroom mirror + flash).
    That would truely be a case of research that helped humanity.

  • Pbergen1

    Brilliant…would reduce the load on the http://WWW….next a “cute” detector (kind of like red eye)….

  • Joakim Bidebo

    When I stop and think of photos I have seen, those that pop back in my head ain’t photos of people tho, are more great photos of landscape, nature and city scenes.

    But then my brain is probably wired backwards. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Interesting study. But I agree with the comments above, there is more to an interesting photo than memorability.