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Flashbulb Memories Essay

Flashbulb memories are those distinctly precise, vivid, long-lasting, concrete memories, and which are about a personal circumstance that surrounds an individual’s understanding of events that were shocking to him/her. This kind of memory involves remembrance with clarity that is almost perceptual. Some contents that are usually remembered with this kind of clarity include things like where the individual was, where they were, and even whom they were with during such occurrences.

The forgetting curve of these memories is relatively less affected by factors such as time even though they may not be as permanent or accurate as photographic memories or most of the other memories that research has endeavored to study. After being stored on a single occasion, flashbulb memories are retained for the rest of the person’s lifetime. The major reason for this is the fact that they are memories which are involved with fundamentally crucial autobiographical or historical events.

Notable examples of these kinds of events include such events like President J. F. Kennedy’s assassination, the 11th September attack, and the famous Martin Luther King Junior’s speech, a devastating plane crash among a myriad of others. This therefore implies that the events can either involve an individual’s personal life or at the same time they may be due to personal circumstances that have no direct affect on the individuals.

One crucial element that makes flashbulb memories as special as they are is the magnitude of the emotional arousal that takes place during the moment of the event’s registration in the memory. This ability to remember with such certainty is increased by the elicited emotions as a result of the event’s flashbulb memory. On the same note, these types of memories have a higher affinity to being retold every now and then, even though in some circumstances they may not be as necessarily accurate as they may be expected to be.

Leveling of the accuracy will normally be after the twelfth month after some considerable reduction within the first three months of the event’s occurrence (Cohen, Conway, Maylor, 1994, p. 456). Some studies have postulated that there is a special flashbulb mechanism that is purposely responsible for the events’ capture and storage for such indefinite periods of time, while others are of the opinion that there is no difference between these memories’ encoding from that of other kinds of memories.

The argument raised by the second school of thought is that the only difference is because these memories are regularly rehearsed than the others. Other research conclusions indicate that indeed there are some flashbulb memories that are more persistent and accurate. Furthermore, there other flashbulb memories that are even more highly consequential and yet they are not wholly immune to time which debilitates other memories. Similarly, there other flashbulb memories that can be far much less accurate than the original scenes’ photographic preservation.

Such findings categorically insinuate the proposition that although flashbulb memories persist as our longest memories, they are also prone to decay. An example of such distortion is found in the circularity of the same mind remembering the same traumatic event which could result as a consequence of stress as a by-product of the shocking episode. Memories that are caused from very emotional personal traumas are preserved more accurately.

This is imperatively the basis with which this kind of memory fundamentally differs from non-emotional episodes’ memory that is significantly more vulnerable to distortion and decay. Just like is the case in our mundane memories, traumatic emotional memories’ are non-literal recordings and constructions. The amygdala (or the emotional computer of the brain) is the organ which is attributed for the accountability of the extraordinary persistence and power that is characteristic of the largest proportion of the highly traumatic and emotional experiences (Winograd, Killinger, 1983, p.

417). However, this theory of an amygdala has remained posed a long-lasting controversy which has not seen any consensus since it was first proposed about thirty years ago, even though it stands up as the most appropriate explanation for the time being as research takes different dimensions as time goes by. Opponents of the amygdala view point state that it is first hand witnessing of events that makes people have the flashbulb memories rather from any unique neural process.

According to a research that was conducted at the New York University by Professor Elizabeth Phelps, people who were closer to the World Trade Centre during its 9/11 destruction had more vivid memories about the terrorist attack than those who were relatively further away. This study further indicates that personal involvement may equally be important in the formation of flashbulb memories. This involves the use of some of our senses like seeing, smelling, and hearing what had actually happened.

Earlier traditional versions suggested that flashbulb memories were instantaneous memories which would be remembered forever since they were thought to adrenaline effects on the memory 9Tekcanm Peynirciolu, 2002, p. 418). In conclusion, at least there is some point of cohesion between both the traditional and the contemporary researchers in this field in the sense that they all tend to agree on the notion that flashbulb memory is a form of historical marker. It acts as the connector between our present and the past being in itself a part of our history.

Moreover, it reminds us of its relationship to us, and of course even though it lingers really significantly, it cannot be taken with absolute certainty that it is the most accurate form of memory above all other memories. References: Winograd, E. , & Killinger, W (1983). Relating age at encoding in early childhood to adult recall: Development of flashbulb memories. Journal of experimental Psychology. 112, 413-422. Cohen,G& Conway, M. A &Maylor, E. A. (1994). Flashbulb memories in older adults Psychology and aging, 9, 454-463. Tekcan, A. I & Peynirciolu, Z. F. (2002). Effects of age on flashbulb memories. Psychology and Aging , 17,416-422.


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