Phototherapy is a field of psychology that encourages people’s interactions with personal and family photos to help them understand themselves better. Haptics is the study of the sense of touch, that believes objects we can feel will produce a greater emotional response. We’ve delved into the research to pull out some facts, and documented some of our own findings, so you can share them with clients to increase their appreciation for prints.
Remember the joy of sitting down with your grandparents and flicking through their wedding album or what you learnt when you discovered your parent’s childhood albums? This pleasure comes from learning more about your family’s story, which helps you understand more about yourself and develops your sense of self identity.
Similar benefits are experienced when kids see printed photos of themselves surrounded by their family. It makes them feel like they’re part of a team and a member of a tribe. They feel secure and confident about their place in the world because they can see that they fit in. This gives them a sense of belonging and connection that strengthens their appreciation for their parents and siblings, and inspires family bonding.
These experiences are at the heart of phototherapy, a field of psychology established in the late 1970s by Canadian psychologist Judy Weiser. It utilises people’s interactions with personal and family photos to help them understand themselves better, to increase their insight and improve their well-being. Weiser believes that, “when a child sees a family portrait with them included they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.”
Our customers also report on similar experiences. Ruth Gilmour, has seen this with her daughter. “I watch Ruby leaf through the pages of our book and I can see it gives her a sense of belonging. She’s looked at it a lot more lately since her dad has been working overseas. I think it’s her way of making him feel closer than he really is. It’s a comfort for us all.”
Melissa Wheatley has also seen that, “photo books are beneficial for the love and learning they provide. They play a large role in ensuring my little ones remember every experience we give them.”
Further support for this theory comes from a 2020 Rise Above Research report that shows that “recalling specific positive memories and happy life experiences can help with overall well-being and reduce the risk of depression, particularly among young people. Reliving past milestones, achievements, experiences, and funny moments is a perfect way to remember the good times, and photos are a perfect medium to accomplish this.”
Spark imagination, memory and storytelling
Printed photographic records can be beneficial for adults as well. They spark conversations about the past, inspire people to express their feelings, and trigger imagination and storytelling capabilities. They even have the power to solidify childhood memories. Test this theory by thinking back to the most memorable moments from your childhood. Were they captured in a photo? Would you remember them if you didn’t have photographic proof?
Now let’s jump forward. When kids leave home and make their way in the world, imagine the comfort photo print and photo books can bring, and the conversations they will start. Then a few decades later, they may be the strongest link they have to parents and grandparents. And a few years further on, they become the perfect tool for bonding with grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Haptics + neuromarketing
Haptics, the study of the sense of touch, states that objects we can feel, that have weight and texture, will produce a greater emotional response and are easier to remember and recall. Neuromarketing research expands on that to show that paper-based content has a greater influence on our brain, triggering a more emotional response and better memory recall.
A 2015 study by Canadian neuromarketing firm TrueImpact investigated the response to paper marketing versus digital media and concluded that direct mail prints were easier to mentally process and tested better for recall.
Earlier, a 2009 study at Bangor University used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) analysed the different effects of paper and digital media. The study concluded:
- “Physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.
- Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.
- Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater ‘internalisation’ of the content.
This all suggests that a tangible, printed photo or photo book will have a far greater influence on your child than a digital photo file can.
On a more practical front, printed photos have the benefit of being more future-proof. Their physicality guarantees that they aren’t as easy to ‘accidentally’ lose or delete as digital photo files. They’re also more likely to remain accessible than photos stored on hard discs or in online storage services. Storage services are not immune to power failures, or mergers and acquisitions that change accessibility or Terms or Services. And does your computer have a CD-ROM drive?
Give good, feel good
Then there’s just the good old-fashioned rush of serotonin and good vibes that creating, giving and receiving a photo book gift can bring to everyone involved – as witnessed in this handover of a photo book gift by a grandson to his grandparents. FYI, this video is available for Momento Pro members to share with clients on our Promotional Content (AU) and Promotional Content (NZ) page.
How can you help?
Given the importance of photos to self-identity and well-being, we hate to think what will happen when multiple generations have no visual history? But you can help! As experts in photography, you can enlighten your clients by giving them instructions on how to maintain their digital files, or recommend how they can print them to preserve them.
Our hope is that professional photographers will prevent generational memory loss and identity crises by giving clients physical photo keepsakes and a lifetime of joy. And they will also preserve and print their own personal or family photo collection so they, their kids and grandkids can be empowered by them for decades to come – as the emotional and sentimental value of photos increases with age.
- Paper Beats Digital In Many Ways, According To Neuroscience (2015) by Roger Dooley for Forbes Magazine
- PhotoTherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums by Weiser, J. (2002)
- Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley (Wiley, 2011)