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Flashbulb Memories: Special Mechanism Essay

1042 words - 5 pages

What do events like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Challenger space shuttle disaster, and hurricane Andrew that shook Miami have in common? All these events can be remembered by the people who experienced it due to flashbulb memory. Flashbulb memories were defined by R. Brown and J. Kulik (1977) as vivid, detailed, and long-lasting memories for attributes of the reception context of public news (Curci, A., & Lanciano, T., 2009). The people who experience such huge events are certain that their flashbulb memories are very accurate and can give in detail what occurred to them in those events (Schwartz, 2013). Furthermore events that generate flashbulb memories are usually very ...view middle of the document...

But not all research agrees with the Brown & Kulik’s idea that the encoding part of flashbulb memory of events occurs. The contribution of Neisser and Nicole Harsch on the phenomenon reports on what they call phantom flashbulbs, or false recollections of hearing the news of an event. Phantom flashbulbs are detected when an individual gives radically different accounts of learning of an event when asked to describe these circumstances immediately after the occurrence of the event and again months or years later (Emotion & Memory 1993). In an example of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, Neisser and Harsch found that after people were asked about the shuttle Challenger disaster a year later, many of them provided completely different stories as to what occurred to them that day. This phenomenon has led Neisser to conclude that flashbulb memories can be created as a result of individuals telling and retelling their account of what occurred to themselves or to others. The problem is that since the story is being told with minor errors as to what actually occurred, those minor errors gradually become part of the actual memory, and even though the memory might be explained in detail and vivid, it may bear little resemblance to the original recollection and in this way, false flashbulb memories are being generated (Emotion & Memory 1993). Furthermore, according to the Brown and Kulik’s encoding theory (Schwartz, 2013) a permanent and vivid account of the incident is created and learned. The phenomenon of phantom flashbulb memory appears fatal to the encoding theory because if the errors are accounted for in the original story, then these findings demonstrate that flashbulb memories can be inaccurate and that certain events may very well be forgotten. To further explore arguments that refute Brown & Kulik’s flashbulb memory hypothesis, Wright, Gaskell, & O'Muircheartaigh argue that the nature of the flashbulb memories was overlooked in prior researches. Flashbulb researchers only asked people about major public events and used this as a foundation for their flashbulb hypothesis. Secondly, the way a question is presented and/or altered may expose unreliable responses.
In conclusion, flashbulb memories are not as effective in memory as Brown and Kulik’s research make it out to be....

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