According to Colman (2006) the definition of flashbulb memory is as follows: “An unusually vivid, richly detailed and long lasting memory for the circumstances surrounding a dramatic event.”
The two researchers that initiated the interested in flashbulb memory are Brown and Kulik (1977). They coined the term “now print” and basically claimed that people take a “photo” of their surroundings when a dramatic event occurs. The event itself is not necessarily remembered in great detail, but the environment in which it occurred or in which the observer finds it self is remembered.
Since their initial claims where made may researchers have looked into their theories. It seems like there are many factors that need to be considered when it comes to the ability to recall information, certainly more than just looking at a dramatic event. Talarico & Rubin (2006) claim that flashbulb memory deteriorates just like normal memories, but the belief that your flashbulb memories are more accurate remains. Neisser (1982) claimed that the reason for the exceptionally detailed recall of flashbulb memories were not due to a separate mechanism (now print) like Brown and Kulik proposed, but was simply due to the amount of repetition through reporting and engaging in conversation that the memory enjoyed. He (Neisser) explains flashbulb memory in a more romantic way, where the individual’s history aligns with the history of the world. Almost like the point were the individual is recognised by some world order that the individual can’t deny. Lindton (1982) believes it is simply down to the distinctiveness of the event, therefore if another similar attack happened like the 7 July bombings, less details will be remembered, except for those who will be personally involved, which makes it a more distinct event for them. Researches have looked at gender differences and even though there is prove of a difference in gender when it comes to autobiographical memory (females recall better), a gender difference has not been spotted.
When Brown and Kulik first defined flashbulb memory they identified six characteristic which were recorded (coded) by the brain during the “now print” mechanism. This investigation is designed to determine if indeed these six characteristics are more frequent in the recall of a “flashbulb memory” (London 7th July bombings) compared to an everyday but somewhat significant memory (birthday in the same year.
A total of 18 students from Therfield School volunteered to participate in this investigation. There was a small age range of 14-15 (mean age = 14.7). There was an equal amount of males (n=9) and females (n=9). In the male and female groups some (n=5) where from a high ability group (set 2 in Science, mean PA score = 117)) and some (n=4) where in a low ability group (set 4 in science, mean PA score = 103). This is an example of convenience sampling, which simply employed volunteers from two science classes in year 9, after their teacher informed them of the opportunity to participate in the investigation.
The volunteers gave up some of their lunch time at school to meet at a designated classroom (Science lab A4). It was made clear that they had no obligation to take part in this investigation and that they have the right to leave the investigation at any time they which. They where given two consent forms to take home and be signed by they parents. (One for participant and researcher each.) The consent form had included on it all relevant contact numbers, the motivation of the study and the availability of the services available, like school councillors, if it was necessary after the investigation. On return of all the consent forms (a week was given) arrangement where made to meet again in the same lab. All the students where again reminded that they had no obligation to complete the investigation and where then given 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Those that...
References: Brown, R., & Kulik, J. (1977). Flashbulb memories. Cognition,5,73-99.
Goldstein, E.B. (2008) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. UK: Thomson-Wadsworth.
Schacter, D.L. (1996). Searching for memory, the brain, the mind and the past. Basic books.
Schoenherr, N. (2003). Flashbulb memories of JFK’s assassination might not be so accurate. Unpublished manuscript, Washington University of St. Louis News and Information, Washington.
Talarico, J.M., & Rubin, D.C. (2003). Confidence, not consistency, characterizes flashbulb memories. Psychological Sceince, 14, p455-461.
Tutorial letter 102, PSY4885. (2008). Department of Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria.
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