Flashbulb Memories Seem Burned Into Your Brain

Flashbulb memories are vivid, emotional recollections of a time when you learned about an important event. They can be either positive or negative, though many associate the term with memories of tragic occurrences, such as the 9/11 attacks, the Kennedy assassination, and the Challenger disaster. Studies have been conducted on these memories to try and measure their accuracy over time, as many people believe that their flashbulb memories are more reliable than other, normal memories. The science is inconclusive so far, but it seems that flashbulb memories are not immune to modification. One study found that flashbulb memories were more likely to be accurate if the person remembering was more intimately involved with the event. For example, people from California were far more likely to remember the details about an earthquake in that state than were people from Atlanta.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Memory is reconstructive, meaning that every time we "retrieve" a memory, we're likely to modify it a bit. 00:24

  2. A single misleading word can affect your memory, causing you to recollect something that you didn't actually perceive. 02:22

  3. Extremely emotional memories are often called flashbulb memories, and can have a positive or negative valence. 03:55

Written by Curiosity Staff February 24, 2016

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