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Flashbulb Memories: How Our Memories Change Overtime and Why We are so Confident in Them

November 24th, 2015 2 comments

Is there a specific event in your life that you will always remember, no matter how much time passes? What about a public event, a tragic one, one that your whole community experienced? Is there a specific eveWorld Trade Center Attackednt that comes to mind? For many people, the tragic September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City come to mind when asked this question. Ask just about anyone alive during this time, and they can probably tell you where they were when the attacks occurred, or what they were doing, or how they were feeling. Oftentimes, when such an important or prominent event takes place, people can recall it very vividly. A person’s recollection of how they were feeling during such an event is called a flashbulb memory, while their recollection of specific details of the event is called an event memory.

 Flashbulb memories are interesting because of how very detailed and vivid they are, even years and years after an event occurs. The question being debated by many psychologists is, how much do flashbulb memories change over time? How can the long-term retention of flashbulb memories be characterized? For example, after 9/11, one might initially recall being at work when he/she hears the news of the plane crashes. However, a month later, when asked again, the same person could report being at home making breakfast. Typically, you wouldn’t expect flashbulb memories to ever change at all because of how detailed, and vividly they are recalled. Nonetheless, changes in flashbulb memories occur quite often. How much and how often do flashbulb memories really change? Why do they change? These are the questions psychologists are seeking to understand. Read more…

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