Essay Research

Well my essay is complete at last. It came in at just under 2000 words, the limit was 1500 to 2000 max so we weren’t even allowed 10% word count on top. It had to be between 1500 and 2000.

The issue I had with the writing of the essay based on the research that I had been carrying out in the lead up to the submission was that there was so much to include and a lot more that I had to exclude due to the word count.

Why I chose the topic

I chose the topic for the essay based on personal experiences with my family commenting on photographs that are on a slideshow on the family tv whenever it is turned on but sitting idle. The photos roll around and show images from the year 2000 up until today and it does show some rare events from the past. My, now grown up, kids have asked me a couple of times if the picture is accurate and their memory of the event is different.

Photographs are used for my own benefit daily, and the family all love to share the photos of events we’ve experienced together or apart. They all get added to the family catalogue in Lightroom and this is then displayed on the tv. It does also cause disagreements as ex wives, ex-girlfriends and controversial events often surface, mostly at the most inopportune moments. But we have a great laugh looking back at the events and the silly faces captured on ccd sensor..

The difference in their memories from the actual photos was in my mind when we were trying to come up with an essay title.

My essay title was:

Can regular exposure to family photo albums create corrupted or false childhood memories?


This blog post will highlight some of the research that I did, and may or may not have been included in the essay.

I’ll refer to the citations in alphabetical order as it is in the Reference List (Harvard style) and the full list can be seen at the end of the post..

The first was (Barthes, 2000) which is a piece of writing about photography that is very highly thought of and we’ve studied the book in detail in previous seminars and the contents of the book relate to family photo album images with the famous WinterGarden photo ebing the topic of the philosophy. Some of it related to my work but I couldn’t leave another quote out that felt more relevant than Barthes.

The next was (Bate, 2010) which was an article full of useful quotes and comments about memories and photography. There were paragraphs quoting Sigmund Freud that were especially relevant but not as relevant as some of the work I left in the final essay.

An article by (Brown and Halliday, 1991) about Cryptomnesia was useful in my work as it documents inadvertent plagiarism, as I mentioned Memory Thievery in the essay this was an important contribution to my understanding.

(Business Insider, 2017) was an article used to document the number of photos that were created per day in 2017 as an illustration of how prevalent photos have become in the modern world. There were more recent studies but there were none that looked like they were from credible sources and had wildly exorbitant numbers so I stuck with this study.

Another part I removed from the essay due to brevity was (Calvillo, Harris and Hawkins, 2022) about the Capitol Riots and Insurrection 2021 and how people’s memories had been programmed with mis-information and how it can be used for malevolence.

Part of my essay was about the effects on mental health of photography and this article (Chen, Mark and Ali, 2016) was a description of monitoring how people’s positivity could be affected in a study by asking them to take regular photos, and review them rather than not reviewing the images made. Again, I had to reduce count and this was cut but I’d recommend a read if you’re interested in how looking at photos and making photos can help have a positive outcome.

In alignment with False Memories and the mention of the Capitol Riots I had this (Eske, 2022) work based around the Mandela Effect which is a phenomenon that affects millions of people globally in strange ways and how it could be used for ill purposes. It was cut because I had already included work that covered the creation of false memories and felt more redundant than the included work.

One of the recommended reads on the course is (Farr, 2012) and it consists of lots of little essays about photography and memory in art. There were some useful phrases and sentences in this book but I didn’t find anything that was really relevant to the False Memories and Family Albums.

One of the references that was used is (Garry and Gerrie, 2005) and detailed the study of people being shown photographs that had been doctored and how some of those shown false images actually inserted the event in to their memories and some even embellished it too. Very interesting look at how people can be manipulated into believing things with photography. It also tells a tale that photos are good but if there is a narrative to accompany it, the memory is even more likely to be kept.

Next we see photos that I included that I had taken or were taken on my camera. They were used in the essay to document moments when the photos had most likely informed Cerys and Ewan, my children, of a time they remember but they probably should have no memory of. The picture of pipes and cables is an aide memoire that I made so I could look back at where the gas pipe is in the extension, reducing the risk of me drilling into it at some point in the future. This was about Cognitive Offloading, meaning I didn’t have to remember the details as long as I know where to look for the details.

(Griffiths, 2023a) was a reference to a survey that I produced in MS Forms to ask people about their memories and photographs. The summary of results can be seen here. It was useful in understanding that there are a lot of people using photos for memory aids and that a lot of the respondents (there were 59 in total) get some positive effects from looking back at photos. The results and the questions were included as an appendix to the essay.

The survey came off the back of two interviews I did with my children, now aged 22 and 20, about their memories and the photos in the family albums. (Griffiths, 2023b) and (Griffiths, 2023c) were included in the appendices of the essay. The interviews were important to me as we’ve had family discussions in the past about the subjects in the interviews but I felt it needed to be formalised to allow it to sit within the essay as research rather than an anecdotal reference.

(Hirsch, 2012) is a book that I found extremely useful and had been recommended in seminars and tutorials by Alice and Niki. There were many relevant paragraphs in the book that I included but some needed to be left to ensure I stayed under the word limit. Hirsch’s work is very insightful and I found this along with Shaw’s book the most useful in terms of references for the essay.

Two articles found by using Browzine by (Loftus, 1996) and (Loftus and Pickrell, 1995) detailed Memory Distortion and false memories and also included studies that showed how it could be done on purpose but also that it can happen accidentally/unconsciously. I used a few references from these two studies in the essay to refer to actual work undertaken to do what I was proposing could be done by over exposure to the images that the children see on the tv in the living room.

The word Confabulate (Merriam Webster, 2023) has now entered my lexicon due to this essay and I will endeavour to use it in many conversations in the future. It sounds like Edmund Blackadder using it to confound Dr Johnson in the Dictionary episode of Blackadder but it means that the memory has filled in missing details to create a more solid recollection of an event.

An interesting newspaper article is oft-referred to in books and articles on false memories and can be found here (, 2004), it details how British soldiers carried out war crimes in a war zone but it has been proven to be completely false soon after the published story hit the front page. It’s something that people still remember as being a large headline though, and fits in with the Mandela Effect I referred to earlier in that it is now in the public consciousness as a real event.

(Neimeyer and Metzler, 1994) was a book that talked about personal identity and autobiographical recall, and there were some parts of a few chapters that were relevant but were doubling up on some more relevant info from other authors.

(Nolan, 2010) was a reference that sits apart from the academic journals in the fact that it refers to Inception, the movie by Christopher Nolan, when they are implanting ideas or false memories in people’s minds by a weird farfetched process using dreams. I used this to show that the phenomenon has been used in movies and tv shows, it also keep the tone a bit lighter by using. a popular culture reference.

More information on the Mandela effect was read in this article, (Prasad and Bainbridge, 2021), and how people remember Mr Monopoly wearing a Monocle when he doesn’t actually wear one amongst other visual phenomenon that people misremember. It’s not limited to a couple of people either, many thousands of people have picked up these false recollections by something that they’ve been exposed to in the media. This could link to the Mirror Hoax reference in that it falsely informs the public. Much of this was in the earlier drafts but was removed to cut word count.

Another reference to a journal article that was demonstrating how looking at photographs and retrieving the contents could help with mental health and learning skills, (Roediger and Butler, 2011). It was interesting to read how people learn more by retrieving information is more effective than just going over the same information time and again. It shows why “teachback” is an effective learning tool for the person doing the teaching as the retrieval and vocalising it helps to lock it into the memory in a more secure manner.

A Wired Magazine article (Rosenberg, 1995) also details experiments and studies of how people could be fooled into believing events that they had not actually been party to. It was an interesting article, found via browzine again but the parts I selected had to be trimmed out.

One of the major works cited in my essay is (Shaw, 2016) and her book The Memory Illusion. it was full of wonderful phrases and information that I could use in the references from the sections of my essay. Dr Julia Shaw is a well known psychologist and this piece of work is well known in the photography field. I used some of Shaw’s work in mine as it was more concise than other articles or the source seemed more credible and I was concerned that online journals might not be as valued as published and well known books.

(Sontag, 1979) is Sontag’s seminal work on Photography and contains lots of philosophical information, opinions and thought processes that discuss photography and photographs but there were very few parts I found in the book that related to the topic of my essay. I think I used a single phrase from her book in the essay but it’s an essential book that I bought from eBay for use in future work on L5 and 6.

Cognitive offloading was the subject of a paper (Sparrow, Liu and Wegner, 2011) in which they tested the hypothesis that people who know a fact is written down somewhere or easily retrievable are less likely to remember it. I related to this in the aide memoire section of the essay as I certainly use photos to capture network port numbers, computer serial numbers and error codes on a daily basis. If I didn’t have my phone to snap an image, I’d make a note in a book, but the article suggests that if I had no other methods of capturing this info I’d more readily use my own memory effectively to store and recall the useful information. It was an interesting study and one that rang true, I included questions in the survey related to this work too.

Some of the other references I mention in this list referred to a book called Maus by Art Spiegelman (Spiegelman, 1986) in which he relates his grandfathers and fathers memories in the form of a graphic novel, representing Jewish people as Mice and Nazis as cats in the tale of the Jewish oppression in germany in the years before and during the second world war and holocaust. Some of the images used in the book are actually family photos included in the comic style panels as if to emphasise that this is a real story. I found that I couldn’t fit the reference I’d had lined up to the actual contents of the essay. Again it’s a relatively modern pop culture reference too

The reference cited as (Strange, Sutherland and Garry, 2006) was a study by some psychological scientists into whether memories could be implanted using photographs and stories about events that were fabricated. It found that plausibility of a false narrative does not impact the likelihood of it being integrated into the memory. To this end they showed kids photos of them at a younger age having a tea party with Prince Charles (now King Charles). Events that were more plausible than the tea party were no likelier to be added to the memory banks than those that seem far fetched. Again, I had no real place to put the information from this into the essay so it was dropped again for brevity.

In an online magazine about Childhood Education (Vaughan-Lee, 2021) it studied the effects of Covid 19 and it’s effects on the collective memory of the population. In much the same way as the mandela effect it found that many people remember events differently to their peers, probably as a result of media coverage or local experiences. It looked at the wider impact of this but I couldn’t justify the word count needed to get it into the essay.

Getting close to the end of my list now, (Wade et al., 2002) was a study I referred to as it was an experiment in which children were shown doctored images of themselves in a hot air ballon ride with many confabulating it into their own memories and often describing an embellished level of detail when asked to recall the event at a later date. Another interesting read and along with some of the others listed here it shows how vulnerable the human memory is to suggestion and manipulation. Which is a bit scary if I’m being honest.

(Weiser, 2010) is an article on Phototherapy as I was looking into the benefits or negative effects of photographs on memory and it turns out there is a field where therapy clients are asked to drop back into the emotional shoes that were there at the time of the photograph being taken. It can be an easy way to prompt clients to bring up long forgotten memories, and with this there are some negative issues bu on the whole it’s a positive story and makes it more effective than talking alone.

The last reference on my bibliography/reference list is (Wigoder, 2001) and was a study by Wigoder of the works of Barthes and Kracauer looking at history and memory. It was an interesting take on the interpretations of the latter authors works but I found that there was nothing suitable for me to include in a part of the essay so I left the article on the virtual shelf after having a quick scan through.

EDIT: I don’t know how I forgot to include this in my original list but How To Write About Contemporary Art by Gilda Williams (Wigoder, 2001), Section Three was used extensively on the Essay work with the parts about paragraphs being especially useful and the fact that linking the paragraphs together makes it flow more easily for the reader. It was also an important part of the work I’ve done on writing artists statements for the module too. I liked it so much and found it so useful it is another book that has joined my others this year after buying a cheap copy on eBay.

Creating a survey

I’m quite lucky in the fact that I work with IT in my full time day job and I have had the opportunity to use Microsoft 365 for a while, one of the apps in the suite is Microsoft Forms and rather than use the SurveyMonkey tool I felt that i could better tailor a questionnaire using the MS tool. I sent it out to around 1100 people, in two Facebook groups and had 59 responses, which although it sounds like a poor amount, it is much better than relying on two interviews with my own children.

The MS Forms tool allowed me to get a good summary of results and also allowed collection of some text responses that also helped set the scene. I kept it anonymous to encourage people to feel comfortable completing the survey. There were some criticisms about it being a leading question here or there, or an option for Maybe might have been included but these were few and far between. I felt I got some nice information back from these random people and I hope that in asking the questions I prompted them to think about how they use their own photos in a positive way.

I did have trouble creating a reference entry and citation for the survey, CiteThemRightOnline, which we are encouraged to use, does not have a suitable category for a survey but tends to recommend an interview format. Getting in touch with Alice she suggested I contacted the Library staff who also tried t help me and in the end they suggested that there was no exactly correct method so I should list it as an Unpublished survey or an unpublished interview. I hope that the method I chose is thought to be acceptable in the marking of the essay as I did everything I could to try and find out.

Proof reading

Ensuring that the text of the essay was readable and made sense I printed it out in multiple different iterations and each time had my family read it as well as a couple of work colleagues. My sone and daughter also had a read through and suggested corrections as I do for them with their studies so it was nice to have a mutual interest. I did jig around a couple of sections and found a slew of typos that I’d originally missed.

I also found that the process of shrinking the word count from the original 2800 word down to 2000 was a process that helped me make sentences and paragraphs more succinct. Stripping out those empty words that provided no benefit at all was useful. The notes we had from the seminars and essay writing workshops went a long way to help me minimise the words but keep the detail in the work.

One issue I had in the end was when Alice reviewed it and I had stripped out the professions or back story of the references like Shaw and Hirsch so it was suggested I comment on their backgrounds to hint at the credibility of their sources. Fair comment and Alice also helped me with tidying up punctuation around the in text citations.

The completion of the essay for me was a big weight off my mind and I’ll be happy once I have uploaded it to the Canvas portal before the 16th May, my assignment submission date. I have added the title page and the appendices as well as the reference list that you can see here below.


Essay writing is not something I’ve done since school, I’ve done reports for my HNC back in the late 90s but an essay with Harvard referencing was way out of my comfort zone. I found that the trimming of words to get below the word count has helped me with my sentence construction and ability to edit. I’ve certainly used some of these skills at work in my emails and documentation since and will continue to benefit from the whole exercise.

I’m glad I chose a topic that was around photography and psychology as if I’d chosen a topic around Brutalist buildings, or street photography I may have struggled to have an interesting read which might ultimately be informative to the reader.

Reference list.

List of references I used in the course of researching for the essay, those in bold are actually included in the essay. The remainder were not but the contents of them overlapped with others and helped me ultimately but as they were not cited in the text, could not be included in the refernce list on the essay.

Barthes, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. Translated by R. Howard. London: Vintage Classics.

Bate, D. (2010). The Memory of Photography. Photographies, [online] 3(2), pp.243–257. doi:

Brown, A.S. and Halliday, H.E. (1991). Crytomnesia and Source Memory Difficulties. The American Journal of Psychology, [online] 104(4), p.475. doi:

Business Insider (2017). People will take 1.2 trillion digital photos this year – thanks to smartphones. [online] Business Insider. Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2022].

Calvillo, D.P., Harris, J.D. and Hawkins, W.C. (2022). Partisan bias in false memories for misinformation about the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot. Memory, [online] 31(1), pp.1–10. doi:

Chen, Y., Mark, G. and Ali, S. (2016). Promoting Positive Affect through Smartphone Photography. Psychology of Well-Being, [online] 6(1). doi:

Eske, J. (2022). Mandela effect: What Is It, how It works, and more. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Farr, I. (2012). Memory. London: Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Garry, M. and Gerrie, M.P. (2005). When Photographs Create False Memories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(6), pp.321–325. doi:

Griffiths, B. (2001). Cerys Being Pushed in Cozy Coupe. [Digital Photograph] Griffiths Photo Library.

Griffiths, B. (2003). Ewan lying under his baby-gym. [Digital Photograph] Griffiths Photo Library.

Griffiths, B. (2006). Aide-memoire for Gas Pipes and Cables During Extension Build. [Digital Photograph] Griffiths Photo Library.

Griffiths, B. (2008). Bob Griffiths wearing hat different to Cerys’ memory . [Digital Photograph] Griffiths Photo Library.

Griffiths, B. (2023a). Photographs and Memory – Online Survey. [online] Shrewsbury: Bob Griffiths. Available at:–iFGokyVodXiSolUN0paNDZLOU5ONzU3OURaT1VJU1pNNlBIRy4u [Accessed 30 Apr. 2023]. Self published online survey .

Griffiths, C.E. (2023b). Memories and Family Photographs I. 15 Mar.

Griffiths, E.R. (2023c). Memories and Family Photographs II. 15 Mar.

Hirsch, M. (2012). Family frames : photography narrative and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard University Press, Dr.

Loftus, E.F. (1996). Memory Distortion and False memory Creation. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, [online] 24(3), pp.281–295. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Loftus, E.F. and Pickrell, J.E. (1995). The Formation of False Memories. Psychiatric Annals, [online] 25(12), pp.720–725. doi:

Merriam Webster (2023). Definition of CONFABULATE. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Apr. 2023]. (2004). SORRY.. WE WERE HOAXED. [online] Daily Mirror. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Neimeyer, G.J. and Metzler, A.E. (1994). Personal identity and autobiographical recall. [online] Cambridge University Press. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Nolan, C. (2010). Inception. [online] IMDb. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Prasad, D. and Bainbridge, W.A. (2021). The Visual Mandela Effect: Evidence for specific shared false memories in popular iconography. Journal of Vision, [online] 21(9), pp.2121–2121. doi:

Roediger, H.L. and Butler, A.C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, [online] 15(1), pp.20–27. doi:

Rosenberg, S. (1995). You Can’t Believe Your Eyes. [online] Wired. Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Shaw, J. (2016). The memory illusion : remembering, forgetting, and the science of false memory. London: Random House.

Sontag, S. (1979). On Photography. London: Penguin.

Sparrow, B., Liu, J. and Wegner, D.M. (2011). Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science, [online] 333(6043), pp.776–778. doi:

Spiegelman, A. (1986). Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. New York: Pantheon.

Strange, D., Sutherland, R. and Garry, M. (2006). Event plausibility does not determine children’s false memories. Memory, [online] 14(8), pp.937–951. doi:

Vaughan-Lee, C. (2021). Student Voice: Photography, COVID-19, and our collective memory. Childhood Education, [online] 97(1), pp.26–35. doi:

Wade, K.A., Garry, M., Don Read, J. and Lindsay, D.S. (2002). A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(3), pp.597–603. doi:

Weiser, J. (2010). PhotoTherapy Techniques — Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Apr. 2023].

Wigoder, M. (2001). History Begins at Home: Photography and Memory in the Writings of Siegfried Kracauer and Roland Barthes. History and Memory, [online] 13(1), p.19. doi:

Williams, G. (2014). How to write about contemporary art. Thames & Hudson.

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