Posts Tagged ‘Flashbulb Memories’

False memories in native and non-native English speakers

December 14th, 2017 No comments

Memory – a simple word consisting of six letters. Memory – a term we frequently use to encompass a broad range of concepts. Memory – the thing that’s left after an event has long passed. But what happens when memory fails us? What happens when we fail to remember the past as accurately as we thought we would?

False memory

In cognitive research, false memories describe memories of events that did not take place or they happened quite differently from how they are remembered. The most common technique to induce false memories in a laboratory setting is a word learning paradigm called Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM), in which people study a list of words (such as bounce, throw, basket, bowling, and golf) that are all related to a common item (in this case, ball). When given a memory test people will often indicate that the non-presented common item (ball) was on the list with high confidence (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995).

This is what researchers described as false memory: remembering something that did not happen.

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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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What to remember, what to forget? Decisions, decisions….

Have you ever found yourself wishing there was a way to erase part of your memory? …perhaps a bad breakup, car accident, or a really embarrassing moment that you simply never want to remember again?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just wake up one day and have all the bad things in our memory trace be gone forever?  Why yes–I think that would be quite wonderful–and I wish I could tell you there was a way for this to happen, but I’m not.  Unfortunately, the memory of an old girlfriend or boyfriend may stay with you forever; but, what if there was a way in which you could change the way you remember an ex or alter the memory of a bad breakup?  Well thanks to recent research, cognitive psychologists have discovered a way to “forget the unforgettable” (Coman, Manier, & Hirst, 2009).

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Power of Emotions on Memory

November 26th, 2013 3 comments

Have you ever had a moment or event in your life that was so significant that even though it happened many years ago you are still able remember vivid details of that day? This type of memory is called a flashbulb memory. Many Americans have developed a flashbulb memory for September 11th, 2001 because it was such a shocking and significant event in their lives. Are you one of the many people who have a flashbulb memory of this day? Where were you when you first heard the news of the plane crash? What were you doing when you heard the news? These questions were adapted from questions asked in a study on flashbulb memories conducted by Bohn and Berntsen in 2007. If you can answer these questions, then you have a flashbulb memory. Congrats!


Flashbulb memories are an interesting topic for many reasons. Though people tend to be very confident in the validity of their flashbulb memories, the truth of the matter is these vivid memories are just as susceptible to alteration and degradation as normal memories. Flashbulb memories tend to include inaccurate details. But what if the quality of your memory could be altered simply by your mood? That is precisely what Bohn and Berntsen set out to test in their study.  They tested the differences in your mood at the time of the event, affected your flashbulb memory.

For such a study, the experimenters needed a surprising and significant event that would have been experienced by many people. Bohn and Berntsend ended up choosing the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989 reuniting East and West Germany after being divided for 28 years! This single event had a great impact on the lives of Germans living on either side of the Wall. Thus it was a great event for the experiment!

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Where were you on September 11, 2001?

May 2nd, 2013 13 comments

By now you’ve probably searched your memory and are replaying the gruesome images you have vividly stored in your mind from that September morning over a decade ago. That day stands out in your memory and most likely will for the rest of your life. I was only nine years old that day, but even I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing that day… At least I think I can. I had just finished my second class of the day when an all-school assembly was called in the bunker-like cement building that is the German School of Washington, D.C. Faculty and staff were frantically pacing around our auditorium while older students sat holding each other, many weeping out of fear for family members and loved ones that worked a short 15 minute trip away in downtown D.C. Only after an over-head projector was flipped on was I able to understand the severity of the situation, and I clearly remember a feeling of shock and misunderstanding overcoming me. I recently discussed that terrifying day with my mom, who picked me up from school sometime after the North Tower in New York City was struck. After explaining to her what I remembered from that day she said to me, “that’s funny, I picked you up from school almost immediately after the first attack in New York.” What I recalled was sitting in that auditorium for what felt like an eternity, watching both the North and South Tower get hit, collapsing, and watching all the aftermath unfold from right there with my peers. In reality I was sitting safe and sound on my couch, watching the mayhem on TV back at home. Read more…

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My False Autobiography

April 17th, 2013 1 comment

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Memory, like many functions of the human body, is not something that we often take time to appreciate. In fact, it can be said that we take the ability to remember for granted. I mean, just think about it! How cool is it that we are able to recall past events such as a dance recital from our youth, or how to play a game of chess, for example? While remembering has its advantages, so does forgetting, but how might our memories be influenced by incorrect recollections?

Our memory system is not flawless, and in fact is susceptible to a number of errors. It is the case that memories sometimes deceive us in ways we are not even aware. Distortions often occur as a result of forgetting details over time, or the interference of routine events such as attending school or work every day. Additionally, our beliefs and expectations of the world around us shape in some way our memories of the past. Another way to state this is: as our perceptions of the world are constantly changing, so are our memories. We reconstruct events based on current beliefs and input received from outside sources (Schacter, 2001).

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