Flashbulb Memories: A Unique and Confusing Experience

Have you ever experienced a very fast and very vivid memory; a memory  in which you can remember every aspect of? This was most likely a flashbulb memory; flashbulb memories are simply defined as very quick and vivid memories. For this type of memory experience to occur a stressful or significant event must take place.  The easiest example is the experience of a car accident. We have all either experienced a car accident or saw one sometime in our past. During this specific moment most people can remember how their car smelled, the exact time, and exactly what their surroundings looked like when they had the accident. A car accident is probably the easiest example to incorporate with a flashbulb memory.

Some may claim that they have had a flashbulb memory when they first heard that Kennedy had been shot. They tend to remember where they were and what they were doing exactly. Here is another example of a flashbulb memory that I had previously written for a class, this may help you better understand and apply the flashbulb memory to yourself.

“The sky was a beautiful, bright blue that day, with very little clouds in the sky. There was a good couple feet of snow on the ground and the air felt better cold. It was the beginning of march, just when the snow should start to melt. I only has on a thin sweater and pajama pants, but I didn’t feel the cold as much as I should have. I felt numb. I could remember the smell and all of the terrible feelings that I felt as I watched my house go up in flames.” For the longest time, it seemed odd to me that I could remember so many details of this one, single memory. Of course it was a traumatic event, I knew I was going to remember it for the rest of my life. I later learned about flashbulb memories, and they have interested me ever since.

Why does this happen? There are many theories about why they occur. During a stressful or significant event, your adrenaline levels rise which make you much more aware of your surroundings and everything happening around you. This explanation seems to be the most plausible. There are many arguments between psychologists about flashbulb memories, as with many other aspects of psychology. I recently found an excellent  article about flashbulb memories and explanations from different psychologists, if any aspect of psychology interests you, I suggest you read it:  http://www.intropsych.com/ch06_memory/flashbulb_memory.html


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