Flashbulb memory is a detailed and vivid memory that is stored on one occasion and retained for a lifetime. Few people have detailed memories of events which happened the day before or after each assassination. People also may form flashbulb memories of important personal events, such as hearing about the death of a family member or witnessing an unusual trauma such as a disaster.
So basically we can say that flashbulb memory us memories or a feeling which happened in the past.
Important determinants of Flashbulb Memory are events that are shocking, surprising and often a national tragedy. Emotions play important role in Flashbulb Memory. So far that amygdala that is responsible for emotions and triggers them faster than our conscious awareness. The shock that we go through when something consequential happens imprints into amygdala because of our emotional shock.
There are 3 Studies done on Flashbulb memory:
First is Neisser And Harsch Study (1992)
Second is Brown and Kulik Study (1977)
Third is Talarico and Rubin Study (2003)
Neisser And Harsch Study (1992)
Aim of this study was to determine the validity of Flashbulb memory, by method of participants memory of a space shuttle crash was tested 24 hours, and then again, 2 years after the event.
The result was that participants were confident their memories were correct, but 40% of participants had distorted memories in the final reports they made. The results suggest that what is different is the confidence that people have in their memories associated with significant events.
Conclusion of a study is that ‘flash-bulb memories are no more accurate than other memories. Their procedure was that they used a questionnaire which was administered to 106 participants on the day after the space-shuttle exploded. Among the questions asked were 5 about how they heard the news: where they were, what they were doing, who told them, what time it occurred etc. Thirty-two months later the participants were asked to complete the questionnaire again and their results compared to the original.
The findings showed that memories had in fact dimmed. Of a potential 220 ‘facts’ produced in the original questionnaire, they were partially or completely wrong on 150 of them. Interestingly participants were not aware of this fall off in performance, being highly confident in their ability to recall accurately.
Brown And Kulik Study (1977)
Dramatic events can cause a physiological imprinting of a memory of the event.. They asked the participants about 5 major events like the assassination of President John. F Kennedy and what they can remember.
Results was that people said they had very clear memories of where they were when they first learned about an important public occurrence. 73 of 80 participants also said they experience flashbulb memory with a personal shock, such as the unexpected death of a close relative.
Conclusion is that there may be a special neural mechanism which triggers an emotional arousal because the event is unexpected or extremely important.
Talarico And Rubin Study (1977)
The study of Talarico and Rubin of 2003. The aim of it was to determine, whether flashbulb memory had any more detail compared to normal memories, after certain periods of time.
In this study, the participants were asked to recall the events of the Word Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. They were asked various questions on four different occasions; 1, 7, 42 and 224 days after the attack. However, this study also tested the memory of an ordinary event that happened at around the same time of the attack.
They found out that the flashbulb memory remained very vivid throughout the study, as well, participants were very confident about their accuracy. However participants reported the ordinary memories becoming less and less vivid and reliable, even though objectively they could remember no more details about September 11.
From this we can conclude that although we might feel that flashbulb memory is more clear, and remembered, it turns out that flashbulb memories are no different from other memories. Limitations of this study were not so many of as of the previous ones, as ordinary memory was tested, however, it is still a memory related to a powerful event.
In order for this to be even more accurate, memory should be checked of an ordinary day, with no exceptional disaster or powerful attack that might remind you of it.
Conclusion is that emotional intensity is often associated with greater confidence, but not with greater accuracy.