Memories of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001: A Study of the Consistency and Phenomenal Characteristics of Flashbulb Memories

By Romeu, Pilar Ferré | The Spanish Journal of Psychology, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Memories of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001: A Study of the Consistency and Phenomenal Characteristics of Flashbulb Memories


Romeu, Pilar Ferré, The Spanish Journal of Psychology


In this study, I investigated students' memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Participants completed on two occasions (2 weeks and 8 months after the events took place) a memory questionnaire that included an assessment of the phenomenal richness of their memories. The results showed that the participants remembered very well the circumstances in which they first heard about the terrorist attacks, that they were very confident about this information, and that these memories were characterized by a high phenomenal richness. Over time, there was a decrease in all of these variables, but people's ratings of phenomenology and confidence were still very high.

Keywords: flashbulb memories, phenomenal characteristics, confidence, consistency

En este estudio se investigaron los recuerdos que tenían estudiantes de los ataques terroristas del 11 de septiembre de 2001, llevados a cabo por terroristas de Al Qaeda contra el World Trade Center en Nueva York y el Pentágono en Washington. En dos ocasiones diferentes (2 semanas y 8 meses después de los sucesos) los participantes rellenaron un cuestionario de memoria que incluía una evaluación de la riqueza fenomenológica de sus recuerdos. Los resultados mostraron que los participantes recordaban muy bien las circunstancias en las que se enteraron de los ataques terroristas, que tenían mucha confianza en esta información, y que estos recuerdos se caracterizaban por una gran riqueza fenomenológica. Con el paso del tiempo, había un decremento en todas estas variables pero las valoraciones de las personas de la fenomenología y la confianza se mantenían muy altas.

Palabras clave: recuerdos "flashbulb", características fenomenológicas, confianza, consistencia

In a pioneer study, Brown and Kulik (1977) asked people to recall the circumstances in which they first heard of several surprising and impressive events that had taken place between 10 and 30 years earlier (e.g., the death of President John F. Kennedy). They found that most people were able to provide vivid descriptions of these circumstances. Also, some aspects of the circumstances appeared repeatedly in the participants' reports. These included: where the participants were when they first heard the news, what they were doing, who they were with, their own emotional response, other people's emotional responses, the source of the news, and what they did after they heard the news.

Brown and Kulik (1977) used the term "flashbulb memories" to refer to these vivid memories. According to the authors, flashbulb memories are vivid, detailed, and longlasting memories of the circumstances in which people first learned about shocking public events. They also offered the first theoretical explanation for the formation and maintenance of such memories. They hypothesized that flashbulb memories are caused by a special memory mechanism that operates during encoding. They also stated that the kind of events capable of producing flashbulb memories must be new and unexpected, people must consider them important, or the events must have consequences for them. Surprise and consequentiality (which Brown and Kulik equated to emotional arousal) were therefore necessary for the formation of such memories. According to the authors, rehearsal (whether overt-i.e., talking about the event-or covert- i.e., thinking about it) also played an important role, as events with a high degree of surprise and consequentiality would be more frequently rehearsed.

Since Brown and Kulik's (1977) work, several studies have tried to identify the encoding and rehearsal factors that contribute to the formation of flashbulb memories. Among these factors are the intensity of people's emotional reactions to the news (Bohannon, 1988; Bohannon & Symons, 1992; Conway et al., 1994; Curci, Luminet, Finkenauer, & Gisle, 2001; Davidson & Glisky, 2002; Hornstein, Brown, & Mulligan, 2003; Pillemer, 1984; Rubin & Kozin, 1984; Schmolck, Buffalo, & Squire, 2000), surprise (Christianson, 1989; Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994; Conway et al.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Memories of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001: A Study of the Consistency and Phenomenal Characteristics of Flashbulb Memories
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.