You can let go of things by cherishing them with photos

We wanted to understand why people are so reluctant to part with things they no longer need. In order to gain insight, we focused on items that have sentimental value. A series of studies published recently in the Journal of Marketing.

This research was inspired by an old pair of basketball pants purchased in junior high,

Storing memories

Things associated with emotional memories are a part of your identity. You are not clinging on to that shirt you wore in junior varsity basketball, for instance, but rather to the memories it represents. You’re holding onto memories, not the shirt itself. The jersey’s sentimental value can make it feel like you are giving up part of yourself when you give it away.

We wanted to find ways to encourage people to donate items that were meaningful to them. We saw in online and face-to-face studies that people reported feeling less of an identity loss when donating items that are meaningful to them if they have photographed or saved the memory.

In an initial online study, our subjects were allowed to choose their method. Nearly two-thirds of our participants chose photography as their preferred method. Other common methods included making a scrapbook or video, which was selected by 22 percent. Also popular were writing notes in a journal or creating a journal entry.

Some people have a hard time throwing away items they no longer use because of the memories attached to them. Angela Waye/

Our results are not surprising, given how simple smartphones make digital imaging. We rely heavily on our smartphones to ” Remember ” all sorts of information. This includes birthdays, addresses, and where we parked our vehicles.

Save the sentiments

The results supported the theory that photos can preserve memories associated with sentimental items. This makes people more inclined to donate these items. People don’t really want these items – they only want to keep the memories that they represent. Adults often feel less fear of losing their memories when they capture them in a photo.

The researchers distributed a flyer for this study. Rebecca Walker Reczek and Julie Irwin

We studied the behavior of Pennsylvania State University Students to test whether photographing items with sentimental values actually increased donations. We placed signs promoting a donation drive at the end of the school year. The eight dorms housed more than 800 male and female undergraduate students. The signs in four dorms suggested that students take photos of items that had sentimental value and that they no longer needed before donating. The rest of the signs were asking for donations.

The dorms that had students take photos of their items before donating them donated 35 percent more than those without this prompt. In the dorms that encouraged students to take pictures, we counted 1,098 donated items compared to 815 in other dorms.

This exercise was repeated at the end of the fall semester in six all-female dormitories of similar size to the previous study. Even though fewer than 50% of students were moving out of their dorms, the rate for donation was 15 percent higher when they saw the suggestion to photograph items of sentimental worth. This difference is statistically significant.

We conducted research outside of a university environment by asking donors who dropped off items at St. We also conducted research outside of a university setting by asking donors dropping off items at a St. Our research assistants took pictures with a Polaroid-style instant camera of donated items that had sentimental value for about half of the donors. The other half didn’t get a photo.

We asked the donors if they felt that they had lost part of themselves by giving away their belongings. The people who received the photographs reported a significant reduction in identity loss. This suggests that the photography helped them to purge.

Our studies show that taking pictures of sentimental items can be a great way to get rid of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *