Flashbulb Memories

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Flashbulb Memories|
College Research|

Flashbulb memories are highly vivid and personal memories that are usually personal or historical/universal. In order to determine the importance of certain qualities pertaining to the Comprehensive and Photographic Model, we researched/surveyed numerous college students. We asked them to identify their top three most vivid memories and to briefly describe them. They were then asked to rate the ‘flashbulb quality’ of other potential, example memories. Most students’ flashbulb memories were positive and personal. Very few students had universal flashbulb memories, and just as few had negative vivid memories. |

 Main Idea
Roger Brown and James Kulik coined the term ‘flashbulb memory’ in 1977, to define extremely vivid, highly detailed memories that evoke an emotionally arousing response. The name flashbulb memory was given because upon recalling the specific memory it feels as if the mind has "taken a picture" of the circumstances in which the news of the event was learned. Due to the high level of emotional importance, these memories reside within a person and are typically remembered for extremely long periods of time. Flashbulb memories can be identified as either personal or universal/historical. A personal memory is directly related to one’s personal life, where as a universal or historical flashbulb memory is related to a political or nationally recognized event. Some examples of personal flashbulb memories are Christmas morning breakfasts, graduation, or a death of a loved one. Universal or historical flashbulb memories are related to events such as 9/11, president assassination, and natural disasters. Doing some of the first research on flashbulb memories, Brown and Kulik believed that there was a special biological memory mechanism in the brain that, when triggered by an emotional event created a permanent record of the experience and the contents surrounding it. They also hypothesized that flashbulb memories have special characteristics that differ from those produced by regular memory mechanisms. Consequently they discovered that flashbulb memories have six characteristic features: place, informant, on-going activity, own affect, other affect, and aftermath (Kihlstrom, & Swar, 2006). The severity of these six characteristics all affect how well a person recalls a given flashbulb memory. Brown and Kulik also proposed the Photographic Model which suggested that in order for a flashbulb memory to occur, there must be some high level of surprise, emotional response, and registration of consequentiality. Brown and Kulik described consequentiality as the things that a person would imagine may have gone differently if the event never occurred, or what the reaction the event had on the individual’s life (El-Ahmadi, Finkenauer, Gisle, Luminet, & Philippot, 1998). The first step in registration is the time in which the individual first hears of an event. The second step involved in registration is the degree of consequentiality, which triggers a certain level of arousal. “Furthermore, Brown and Kulik believed that high levels of these variables would also result in frequent rehearsal, being either covert (“always on the mind”) or overt (ex. talked about in conversations with others). Rehearsal, which acts as a mediating process in the development of a flashbulb account, creates stronger associations and more elaborate accounts. Therefore, the flashbulb memory becomes “more accessible and vividly remembered for a long period of time” (Brown, Kulik, 1977).

Opposed to Brown and Kulik’s Photographic Model is the Comprehensive Model. Instead of using Brown and Kulik’s variables of consequentiality and surprise, the Comprehensive Model focuses more on knowledge, interest, and importance of the event. Furthermore, the two models follow a different procedure for the registration and development of flashbulb memories. For example, the Photographic...
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