Flashbulb Memory

A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshot' of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard. Flashbulb memory is an appropriate name for the phenomenon in that it suggests surprise, an indiscriminate illumination, and brevity. The name is inappropriate as an actual photograph is indiscriminate and preserves everything within its scope. Flashbulb memories, in actuality, are only somewhat indiscriminate and are far from complete. Evidence has shown that although people are highly confident in their memories, the details of the memories can be forgotten.

Flashbulb memories are one type of autobiographical memory. Some researchers believe that there is reason to distinguish flashbulb memories from other types of autobiographical memory because they rely on elements of personal importance, consequentiality, emotion, and surprise. Others believe that ordinary memories can also be accurate and long lasting if they are highly distinctive, personally significant, or repeatedly rehearsed.

Flashbulb memories have six characteristic features: place, ongoing activity, informant, own affect, other affect, and aftermath. Arguably, the principal determinants of a flashbulb memory are a high level of surprise, a high level of consequentiality, and perhaps emotional arousal.

Read more about Flashbulb Memory:  Historical Overview, Common Flashbulb Memories, Methods, Accuracy, Demographic Differences in Flashbulb Memories, Improving Flashbulb Memories, Controversy: Special Mechanism Hypothesis, Critique of Flashbulb Memory Research

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