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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!

berlin_wall_1989

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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