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It’s too much for us to handle—The effect of smartphone use on long-term retrieval of family photos


We tested the use of smartphones for retrieval of pictures of long-term, salient family events. Our goal was to replicate a study conducted a decade ago where participants used digital cameras. We found that smartphones affected picture retrieval in two contrasting ways. Overall, the constant availability of smartphones increased collection size. This increased the failure percentage for pictures downloaded to computer file system folders from an average of 43% in the original study to 71% in the current one. On the other hand, improved smartphone retrieval technologies including timeline, search, and face recognition reduced smartphone application retrieval failures to 29% on average. Overall, these two opposing tendencies canceled each other out, with no significant difference in failure percentage and retrieval time between the two studies. Results indicate that the magnitude of pictures is too much for us to manually handle and we must rely on technology for picture retrieval.

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We thank Prof. Paul Clough and our participants.


This research was funded by the Israeli Science Foundation, Grant 1074/16.

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Correspondence to Ofer Bergman.

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Bergman, O., Gutman, D. & Whittaker, S. It’s too much for us to handle—The effect of smartphone use on long-term retrieval of family photos. Pers Ubiquit Comput (2022).

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  • Photography
  • Long-term retrieval
  • Smartphones
  • Personal information management