What Are Flashbulb Memories? Essay

1875 words - 8 pages

Flashbulb memories are commonly thought of when people look back at a memorable moment in time and remember every detail like it was yesterday. However, research shows us flashbulb memories are not all they appear to be. Flashbulb memories are defined as “memories for the circumstances in which one first learned of a very surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) event” (Winograd, 1983). This suggest in order for a memory to become a flashbulb memory it must be emotionally arousing and surprising. Some researchers believe flashbulb memories are developed after the event. When we attach information which is significant to the event, which is when the event becomes a flashbulb. From there people often think about the event all the time and they constantly are updating their memories (Winograd, 1983). The memories we make, whether they are everyday or flashbulb, are distorted and may be forgotten over time (Davidson, 2005). These memories form in our everyday life but they are not as concrete as one believes.
When someone creates a memory, especially one which is a flashbulb, they generally feel confident in what they remember. The events which are especially full of emotion are often recreated with vividness and confidence (Romeu, 2006). These memories however are no more accurate than an everyday memory (Weaver, 1993). Studies show people will forget flashbulb memories at the same rate as other memories. In a study from 2012, researchers looked at the effects of emotional intensity in regards to memory. The subjects were shown a collection of 60 photographs which contained 20 colored dots in the center of the photograph. After viewing the photographs the participants watched a neutral video for an hour and then were tested on the photographs. First the participant had to indicate whether the photograph was in the sets they had viewed and then they were asked to identify the color of the dots which appeared in the center of the photograph (Rimmele, 2012).
Interestingly from this experiment the researchers found it took the participants longer to identify the colors which were on the negative stimuli but they could more accurately a quickly identify which negative scenes were present in the collection of photographs (Rimmele, 2012). This could be because of gist memory. Our brain is taking in only the important information regarding the memory so we do not have to worry about the irrelevant information. The extrinsic information such as the color was not stored but the emotional arousal was beneficial for the intrinsic information such as the location and time of the memory (Rimmele, 2012).
Other researchers have conducted experiments which help understand intrinsic memory. Time and place are important when it comes to flashbulb memories. In one study conducted in 2006, the researcher gave participants a questionnaire which they were asked to recall memories of September 11th. Eight months later the participants were brought back...

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