What are flashbulb memories?

Flashbulb memories are those memories formed when a person learns of a shocking or significant event, such as the assassination of a world leader or the occurrence of a devastating natural disaster. Research has suggested that flash memories are more vivid, accurate and long-lasting than other types of memories, and may even be recorded and stored by a different part of the brain. Many researchers agree that the formation of a lightbulb memory will occur only if the news learned is very surprising, arouses an emotional response, or may have a consequence in one's life.

In flashbulb memories, people can recall in a high level of detail the moment they learned important news. A person can remember, for example, where they were and with whom, what they were wearing, how, precisely, the news was delivered to them, and how they felt when they received it. In the United States, for example, many of those alive and aware at the time of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 continue to retain an accurate memory of the moment they learned of the event several decades later.

Many researchers believe that flash memories are more accurate and long lasting than other types of memories. While long-term studies have shown these memories to be fairly resistant to deterioration over time, the exact reason for this preservation trend remains open to debate. Some researchers feel that the continued accuracy of lightbulb memories is due to the fact that, due to their shocking or emotional nature, they tend to be discussed or thought about much more frequently than non-emotional memories. Others argue that lightbulb memories are recorded and stored by a different brain process than that used to record non-emotional memories, and that a lightbulb memory is therefore unique in its composition.

Whether or not flashbulb memories are processed by different brain action than other types of memories, researchers generally agree that certain conditions must be in place for them to form. Specifically, to result in a flashbulb memory, the news learned must be highly surprising, elicit an emotional response, or be perceived as a potential consequence in one's life. In many cases, all three conditions may exist. This hypothesis has been tested by studies showing that people who live or have a family that lives near a shocking event, such as an earthquake, are much more likely to have flashbulb memories related to the event than those who were removed from the event. event scene. event.

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