Did Adele get it wrong?


The controversy continues. Should phones be allowed or prohibited in theaters, concert venues, and dance halls?

Adele thinks they’re distracting but researchers from The University of Southern California, Yale, and University of Pennsylvania are finding that those concert videos and selfies might help us enjoy the experience more.

Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences” details the findings from a study that measured 2,000 participants' enjoyment of their experiences, both with and without a camera on hand.


The majority of people who took photos reported higher levels of enjoyment.

But, “intention is the key,” shares Patricia Rockman, director of education and clinical services at Toronto's Centre for Mindfulness Studies, who reflected on the study.  

“Enjoyment will hinge on how you're engaging with whatever you're looking at…if you are carefully framing a picture of someone like Adele while she's singing, or a beautiful moment in nature on a vacation, you're intending to engage with what you're looking at…But if you're just grabbing your phone without thinking…your enjoyment will likely be diminished.”

For those who can’t stand the bright screens in a dark theater?

It isn’t all bad news for you.

“There were cases where the researchers behind the new study found photography was a hindrance. For example, participants engaged in an arts and crafts project didn't find the experience more enjoyable when they photographed it. And the researchers also found that enjoyment was not enhanced when the photo-taking process interfered too much with the experience.” -- Jason Osler, for CBC News

So what does this mean for those of us trying to decide whether to allow or prohibit cell phone use in our spaces?

Recognize that the majority of the public is seeking opportunities to engage actively in your space—whether that’s by participating directly in art making or by using technology to enhance their experience and capture memories.

So try to find ways, spaces, or even moments where that can happen, and then offer them an opportunity to disconnect from technology and instead connect IRL with their friends, families, and fellow arts-goers.

Read more on Adele, the photo study, and the ongoing debate about technology and creative experiences on CBC News Canada