Accuracy of Flashbulb Memories


Flashbulb memory is a vivid, detailed, and confidently held memory for the circumstances surrounding when you heard some startling news. And I wanted to find out just how accurate a flashbulb memory is. First I stated with this video explaining basic information of this type of memory then I went to an article on some studies done. 

The term “flashbulb memory” was coined by two people in 1977: James Kulik and Robert Brown. And this video states that this is formed after an event that was emotionally intense and very upsetting. Although we do not know exactly how the flashbulb memory is formed but from fMRI brain scans scientists claim there are two parts of the brain that are involved. The amygdala and hippocampus are the two parts of the brain. This video also explains that the memories are not always accurate in the details and the memories can become rehearsed. As they are rehearsed- the brain tries to fill in gaps of the memory and does not realize what it is doing because it fits into the scenario. From a study done on the tragedy of 9/11 – the subjects’ memory on the day of 9/11 and a few days before the attack were both equally as inconsistent. From this video, it really hit me that no matter how traumatizing or surprising a memory is – I will most likely forget some part of the details and replace it with something that would make sense in the situation.

The article explains through different studies how accurate or not a certain memory is. And with one of the studies on the flashbulb memory comparing factual memories- the researchers made the conclusion that both the memories became consistent after forgetting some bits of the information of the events. Although they could not find the consistency in the stories, they found the inconsistencies to be similar. Like people would misremember and change who they were with or how they felt during the event. And this was because over the times in the study it was hard for the person to get back into their feelings at that moment.  

My conclusion from the video and the article is that flashbulb memories can be accurate but to a certain extent. Like a person would forget small details but they would not forget the event as a whole. From doing this research, I want to ask different family members with dementia about their flashbulb memories and what they can remember from the event.

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2 thoughts on “Accuracy of Flashbulb Memories

  1. iloaiza

    Whoa! That’s really interesting! That makes total sense about our memories not being as accurate as we think they are. I want to tell my friend who ALWAYS claims she remembers everything and never forgets things that we can forget specific details regarding a flashbulb, and we can replace the details with a possible false memories that makes sense in the situation! I am not feeling too confident in the accuracy of some of my memories now… LOL

  2. ccallowa

    It is so cool to read about how our memories aren’t as accurate as we believe they are! Since flashbulb memories tend to be very vivid, and individuals hold a lot of confidence in them I can imagine why it is hard to believe that they are not true. It is so interesting to hear about how the brain tries to fill in gaps about memories and we don’t even realize it, and those memories become real to us. Also, it does make a lot of sense that little parts of flashbulb memories are not accurate, emotions tend to be tied strongly to flashbulb memory and as you stated previously that our brains try to fill in gaps but can’t always do it accurately. Overall a great read!

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