Studies on Flashbulb memory
In 1899, a psychologist, F.W. Colgrove did a study where participants had to describe their memories of President Lincolnâ€™s assassination. He found that participants remember what they were doing, where they were, and when they heard the news in a vivid manner. This phenomenon was later known as flashbulb memories.
Brown and Kulik first coined the term â€˜flashbulb memoryâ€™ in 1977. In their study, they extended Colgroveâ€™s study and asked participants to recall moments when they had heard of the assassinations of various well-known figures and when they personally experienced moments of shock that were related to personal news. They found that the President Kennedyâ€™s death incident elicited memories of context by almost all participants except one and there was recollection of some trivial sensory details experienced during the event.
Larson in 1992, found that context information in non-emotional events could be remembered by chance and we may just recall the context where we heard some news for a period of time that certainly does not get retained for the 30 years, which was recorded in Colgroveâ€™s date.
Bohannon and Symons (1992) conducted a research on participantsâ€™ memories of the Challenger disaster. Their findings suggested high level of distress and showed significantly more accurate recalling of context information as compared to low level distress. Er (2003) did a study on participants who were present in the 1999 Marmara earthquake. He found that people recalled their location 100% accurately as compared to people who had just heard about the earthquake.
Models of Flashbulb Memory
The Photographic Model- This model proposes that the degree of unexpectedness and surprise involved when the person first hears of the event, makes it a first step in the registration of the very event. This model follows step by step process.
Comprehensive Model- This model proposes that there has to be an interconnected relationship between the variables. The individualâ€™s level of emotional arousal depends on the knowledge and interest in the event, which further impacts the personal importance of the individual. This later contributes to the frequency of rehearsal in the mind and plays a major role in creating associations and helping in remembering the vivid attributes of the event. For example, people, place, and other descriptions of the situation.
Emotional-integrative Model- This model is the integration of the photographic and comprehensive models. According to this model, the combination of level of surprise, importance of the event, and affective attitude contribute to the overt rehearsal which serves as a mediator of the event and strengthens the memory of the event. This model also proposes that if the high level of emotional relationship and rehearsal of the memory is present, then flashbulb memory can be formed for expected events as well.
Importance-driven Emotional Reactions Model- Personally attached consequences of the event generate intensity of the emotional reactions. For example, people who have experienced traumatic events in life, their memory test reveals more complete, more durable, and more consistent long-term memories than people who have no traumatic experiences.
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