Last Updated 13 Jan 2021

Flash bulb memory

Category Light Bulb, Memories
Essay type Process
Words 1147 (4 pages)
Views 382

Critically evaluate the claim that flashbulb' memories are qualitatively different to other memories Memory In psychology is the physical series of events within the brain that encode, store and retrieve information within the human body. When information is encoded within our memory it reaches our primary five senses and is converted into chemical and physical stimuli. This stimuli is stored in the next stage of the memory process where information if retained for potentially decades of time within us. We can retrieve this information by locating it within our subconscious.

This can be effortless or difficult but this is based around the type of memory concerned. Memory itself can be broken down into three areas as shown by this image (The Human Memory 2013) Long-term memory is the area of concern as this is where the topic of Flashbulb memory and the memories that it can be qualitatively analysed with are found. Long term memory is exactly what you would expect it to be and that is the storage of information within the brain over vast periods of time which is a seemingly never ending storage system.

Information decays over time as people grow old but it is in ome debate whether humans ever really forget information or it simply becomes too strenuous on the brain to recall the information in question. (The Human Memory 2013) Flashbulb memory is the main topic and is within the category of long-term memory and in its most simple form it is the memories a person forms when they witness a shocking or very significant event within the world.

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An example of a 'significant event' in the world may be the assassination of a world leader or the day you won the lottery for instance as an example of what both a shocking and a significant event may be for someone in the world. An individual after having witnessed or experienced a life altering event may experience the effects of flash bulb memory and astonishingly be able to remember an event at a very high level of detail at the moment the event took place.

For example an individual may have the ability to recall where they were at the time and who they were with, perhaps what they were wearing or what emotions they were feeling throughout the event when it took place. A quick example of an event that many said to have retained a precise and accurate account of in the United States what the assassination of President John F. Kennedy even decades after it has taken place. [1] It is the first type of memory that showed the potential interaction between emotion and the cognitive process of memory itself and how they can actually be linked together.

However it is still being debated whether the flash bulb memory is simply a unique or special type of memory or is it the same and Just as unreliable as other types of memory. Brown ; Kulik created and experiment in 1977 from which they became the first ambassadors of notion that that flash bulb memory was triggered by important events in an individual's life. It was the first type of memory that showed the potential interaction between emotion and the cognitive process of memory itself and how they can actually be linked together.

Brown and Kulik describe flash bulb memory as the remembrance ot extremely detailed and vivid memories which are significant to the individual concerned. They also are memories that are extremely resistant to being forgotten over large quantities of time. In the Study Brown & Kulik originally carried out in 1977 the way in which many viewed how they saw light bulb memory and in essence redefined it. The aim of this study was to find out if dramatic or ndividually momentous events would cause these so called flash bulb memories'.

They initially asked forty white and black American citizens if they could remember vivid imagery when they heard that a major event in the past had happened in a questionnaire format. Examples given were the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the death of Princess Diana as well as others. They then tested their initial prediction (that these influential events would have caused and now cause recollection of light bulb memory) against non-consequential more monotonous events in a person's life. Overall it was found that flash bulb memory was more likely to be remembered of a shocking, disturbing or momentous event in a person's life.

Issues personally relevant were also likely to be remembered with flash bulb memory. (1B Psychology (Diana) 2011) It is believed by many that a flash bulb memory can be more accurate and longer lasting than alternative memory types such as Brown ; Kulik who believed flash bulb memories were long term aspects of a person's inherent memory in which they could remember specific instances and aspects they otherwise could not, while hey did believe these memories were not always accessible by the person as they deteriorate with age. They also believed that an event remembered with flashbulb memory would depend heavily on different factors.

The proximity firstly between the person impacted and the event itself would affect the memory as the closer a person was to an event the more involved and immersed they would become in the scenario. The emotion the individual felt when the scenario played out is another key factor as this emotion may be so strong it triggers a light bulb memory. The distinctiveness of he scenario is very important. Was it common place and very much familiar and the person feels like they can simply discard the event or is it so unfamiliar it is almost disturbing or creates a burning curiosity and amazement which consequently leads to a flash bulb memory.

So from this information Brown & Kulik clearly feel that flash bulb memories are unique themselves and have special properties which set them apart from ordinary types of memory. (Wikipedia flash bulb memory 2013) Counter arguments created by Michael McCloskey were made in which he and his fellow olleagues analysed Brown & Kuliks hypothesis and results to form their own findings on the subject of flash bulb memory. Their aim was to find out whether there was really a difference between ordinary trivial memories and distinctive 'important' ones and whether there really is a special mechanism used for a person's flash bulb memory.

The notion that flash bulb memories are simply memories of important events in an individual's life that are completely viable and explicable in terms of the ordinary memory and do not show the existence of a new specific and special mechanism. Michael McCloskey also writes that an event may be seen by the person as more distinctive, influential and consequentially memorable but there is not a way a 'qualitative distinction' can potentially be shown between memories for learning about these shocking and important instances and memories for simply learning about monotonous trivial scenarios.

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Flash bulb memory. (2018, Jun 11). Retrieved from

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