Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Flashbulb memories and emotion

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Flashbulb memories and emotion:
How do emotions affect flashbulb memories?

Overview[edit | edit source]

People tend to report very specific and detailed memories when they learn news that is extreme, emotionally arousing and/or surprising. These specific types of memory are called flashbulb memories which provide vivid and autobiographic memory after experiencing an extreme event. Because an emotionally arousing event is necessary to produce flashbulb memory, researchers have studied the memories when people first heard about news such as the September 9/11 attacks, the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, and the attack on Pearl Harbor or moon landing in order to investigate the figures of flashbulb memory. Through those studies, it has been discovered that the flashbulb memory is an extremely vivid memory about the details of the situations and its persistence over a long period time (Brown and Kulik, 1997). 

Opening story[edit | edit source]

flashbulb memory was named after the bulb because of its distinctive features

Sophia is a middle aged woman who has [missing something?] lovely family and fairly good job. One day, she accidentally bumped into her old friend who used go to the same university with her in New York. The two old friends stunned[say what?] for a while, but soon started to chat about their early life. As the conversation goes, Sophia found it difficult to remember all the memories that she experienced in her 20s. It seemed the memories were faded away along with the time. However, when they started to talk about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, she could easily recall those memories of what she had experienced at the time of being told about the crisis. Surprisingly, she could remember all the details such as what she was doing, where she was, who she was with and how she felt. The memory was astonishingly vivid as if there was a photo shot in her brain. Moreover, it was not only her who can remember those memories, but also her friend could remember the memories easily and described it vividly as if it happened a week ago. After the conversation, Sophia felt strange and curious about how a certain memory can survive vividly when others seem faded away.

This phenomenon, which Sophia experienced in the story, is called flashbulb memory. It is a certain form of memory that remained vividly and autobiographically in her brain regardless of the time that passes. This book chapter will explore flashbulb memory and its undetectable partner emotion. It will be discovered what the flashbulb memory is and how it is formed.  

Definitions[edit | edit source]

flashbulb memory[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. A surprising event such as September 9/11 attacks may deliver the flashbulb memory

A flashbulb memory is a as highly vivid memory for the circumstances in which an individual was informed extremely surprising or emotionally arousing events such as September 11 attacks (Brown and Kulik, 1997). The term “Flashbulb memory” metaphors the surprise, detail, and brevity of a photograph, which lead Individuals to be able to remember extremely detailed memory with perceptual clarity (Brown and Kulik, 1997).

For instance, they can recall such memories: what he or she was doing, where he or she was, how he or she felt about it, who told him or her (Brown and Kulik, 1997). However, some researchers believed that all the details which individuals recalled is not always correct. It is more likely that the individuals’[grammar?] confidence about the flashbulb memory is consistently high, and they strongly believed that the memories are correct (Winograd and Neisser, 2006). In fact, the memory could have been distorted or faded over time (Winograd and Neisser, 2006). this controversy would be dealt more deeply later in this book chapter. 

Key features of flashbulb memory[edit | edit source]

(Luminet and Curci, 2008)

  • Individual report[grammar?] highly detailed memory about circumstances in which he or she learned an event
  • Flashbulb memory is associated with an event which contains highly surprise information, positive and negative emotion, personal importance and strong consequences.
  • Flashbulb memory is more likely [missing something?] remembered if the individual have previous knowledge and strong attitudes about.
  • Individuals are very confident about all the details over time

Emotion[edit | edit source]

Everyone may have their own concept of emotion and it seems not a problem to define it. However, Defining emotion is not an easy task to be done because of its complexity (Kleinginna and Kleinginna, 1989).  Many researchers have different opinions and their own way to define emotion based on their point of view (Kleinginna and Kleinginna, 1989). Given that there is no a consensus, the definition of emotion can be made in multidimensional way. There are four characteristics of emotion, which help to understand emotions (Reeve, 2014). Feeling state can be the first characteristic (Reeve, 2014). People feel the emotions such as anger or joyful. Biological-reaction is also emotions, which enable individuals to adapt to environments by preparing the body (Reeve, 2014). Agent of purpose are also one of the characteristic, which bring the action from individual with urges and impulses (Reeve, 2014).  To explain, fight can be derived from anger because the motivational impulses generated from anger. Lastly, social express phenomena can be a characteristic of also emotions (Reeve, 2014). Emotional state are delivered to others by using body language, facial expressions or any non-verbal signs. With its characteristics, emotion is defined as   “Emotions are short-lived, feeling–purposive–expressive–bodily responses that help us adapt to the opportunities and challenges we face during important life events” (Reeve, 2014, p. 340).

Theories[edit | edit source]

The photographic model[edit | edit source]

In [missing something?] photographic model, surprise is the one of the crucial components of flashbulb memory formation and maintenance. According to Brown and Kuik (1977), surprise must be occurred during obtaining the original event. Thus, the event has to be new or unexpected to produce surprise. In the other word, everyday life event cannot produce a flashbulb memory because it does not elicit surprise (Finkenauer et al., 1998). Along with surprise, the consequentiality or personal importance is also important. Consequentiality is associated with the detailed memory, thus the more personal importance produces the more detailed memory. For instance, the surprise is determined by degree of novelty; the completeness is determined by degree of consequentiality (Finkenauer et al., 1998).

Rehearsal also plays important role that solidify the completeness of flashbulb memory in this model (Finkenauer et al., 1998). Furthermore, it is believed that the flashbulb memory and its contents are likely to be influenced by rehearsal. There are two types of rehearsal: overt rehearsal and covert rehearsal (Finkenauer et al., 1998). The overt rehearsal occurs When the person have a conversation about the event, while the covert rehearsal occurs when the person think about the event. It is believed that the rehearsals will frequently appear with higher consequentiality (if the event is personally improtant) (Finkenauer et al., 1998).   There are two explanations about how the rehearsal affects the flashbulb memory.   First explanation is that the Flashbulb memory becomes more solid while the existing memory is reinforced (Finkenauer et al., 1998)[grammar?]. Another explanation is that the memory contents are modified while the person repeatedly talks about the events (Finkenauer et al., 1998).  To illustrate, a story would be constructed by talking about the event, which meets the communicative demands of the interpersonal situation.  

Figure 2. The photographic model of the flashbulb memory formation

Comprehensive model[edit | edit source]

Comprehensive model is composed of three main processes that can work independently or corporately in order to from a memory over time ( Finkenauer et al., 1998).  Frist component is the prior knowledge about the event, which accelerates the existing memory structure to obtain the new information ( Finkenauer et al., 1998).  To illustrate, if someone have{{grammar} prior knowledge about something, the knowledge helps to learn new information that is associated with it. Another component is the event has to be personally important because the flashbulb memory is more likely formed with the event personally associated (Finkenauer et al., 1998).  The last [what?]one is that affective reaction has to be triggered by original event (Finkenauer et al., 1998).  A Flashbulb memory is formed when the event is highly important and is associated with high affect (Finkenauer et al., 1998). In other words, if an event does not appeal any importance, it cannot cause any affect, thus Flashbulb memory less likely to be formed.  In comparing to Photographic model, rehearsal does not exert any influence on formation of flashbulb memory in Comprehensive model even though it is believed as a critical component to maintaining other not-flashbulb memories (Finkenauer et al., 1998).

Figure 3. The comprehensive model of flashbulb memory formation

Emotional-integrative model[edit | edit source]

[missing something?]Emotional-Integrative model can be explained as combination of the models that previously discussed ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). According to Finkenauer and his colleagues (1998), novelty and consequentiality are used to appraise the original event. The level of novelty expects a reaction of surprise ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). An intensity of emotional feeling state is determined by personal importance, the level of surprise as is discussed in the photographic model ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). Additionally, antecedent personal characteristic, such as prior knowledge and attitudes, used to determine importance, emotional feeling state and rehearsal as it is discussed in comprehensive model (Finkenauer et al., 1998).   Furthermore, in [missing something?]emotional-integrative model, the novelty and consequentiality are operationalised in terms of its appraisal ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). Also, emotional appraisals (i.e., surprise) are distinguished from emotional responses (I.e., emotional feeling state) ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). Rehearsal is conceptualised as social sharing and information seeking in terms of emotion theories ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). For instance, conversation about the event fits into the social sharing concept and following the media fits into the information seeking concept.  

Especially,[grammar?] Finkenauer and his colleagues (1998) emphasised on role of novelty. According to the researchers, efficient encoding is important to obtain great number of details in flashbulb memory, and the novelty is crucially associated with encoding stage. A novel event facilitates the efficient encoding of the information by being placed edge of novelty continuum ranging from familiar to novel ( Finkenauer et al., 1998).         

Figure 4. the emotional-integrative model of flashbulb memory formation

Importance-driven emotional reactions model[edit | edit source]

Importance-driven emotional model is a theory that focuses on the personal importance (consequentiality) (Er, 2003). Er (2003) established this model by investigating the victims and non-victims of Marmara earthquake disaster. According to the study, the victims of the Marmara earthquake tend to preserve memory as a whole and unchanged (Er, 2003). Additionally, it is found that their long-term memories are more complete, more durable and more consistent than the memory of the non-victims (Er, 2003). This research shows that the essential role of personal importance as a predictor of maintaining clear memories (Er, 2003). To illustrate, the personal importance triggers the strong emotional reaction which directly affects the formation of flashbulb memory (Er, 2003). [missing something?]Study also emphasised on the novelty and surprise as a critical component that operates with consequentiality to form a flashbulb memory. Er (2003) also mentioned the necessary of novelty and surprise because it is believed, in all four models, that a new or unexpected event determines the flashbulb memory. According to the researcher, even though the model empathises on the personal importance, it also shares basic aspects with other theories that previously introduced. Firstly, [missing something?]intensity of emotional state is determined by consequentiality (Er, 2003). The other one is the essential role of rehearsal which directly affect on the flashbulb memory (Er, 2003).    

Age difference of flashbulb memory[edit | edit source]

In the research of demographic difference in flashbulb memory, It is found that flashbulb formation vary based on individual's ages. According to Cohen and his colleagues (1994), the elders less likely to obtain the flashbulb memory compared to the younger subject in United Kingdom. For instance, most of younger participants were reported that they have flashbulb memory related to the event of the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whereas only few elderly participants were reported that they have the flashbulb memories (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). The researchers examine[grammar?] the participants eleven month after the event, and the younger groups showed detailed and complete memory, and immunity to forgetting (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). However, most of participants in elderly group reported less detailed memory compared to their original report (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). The researchers suggested that the low appearance of flashbulb memory in elderly group is not due to low level of rehearsal and a neutral response at encoding (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). To illustrate, it was found that the elderly group reported high rate of event reaction, knowledge, interest and frequency of rehearsal, which is even greater than report produced by the young group (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). [missing something?]Only difference was that the elderly group tend to talk about the event more frequently compare to young group, and that the young group tend to be more surprised when they learn the events than the elderly group (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). Given the similarity of level of emotional reaction and rehearsals, the elderly groups would have been expected to show similar frequency of flashbulb memory (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). The result showed, however, that the elderly group did not have flashbulb memory (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994).           

[missing something?]Researcher suggested that the reason of the failing of obtaining flashbulb memory could be biological deficit in old life (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). It was insisted that the endocrine responses is necessary to enhance the memory storage ( i.e., the adrenaline strengthen the surprise of the pubic event.) (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). However, the elders cannot produce such endocrine responses because aging is associated with hormonal deficit (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). According to the study, injection of adrenaline can improve the retaining the flashbulb memory for the elders (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). 

Controversy of flashbulb memory[edit | edit source]

Talarico and Rubin (2003) found that studies of flashbulb memory lack of empirical evidence of flashbulb memory. Thus, they conducted a research to examine the assumption that individuals more likely to remember a memory that is associated with public negative emotional event better than the memory in ordinary life events. 54 students participated in the study the day after the September 9/11 attacks (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). At the first day, researchers collected the reports of participants’ memories about everyday life and first hearing of the terrorist attacks (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). After the first collection, the participants are assigned to report their memories again ether 1, 6, or 32 weeks later (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). The result showed that there is no difference between the flashbulb memory and everyday memories in terms of consistency (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). The both everyday and flashbulb memories seemed to decline over time, whereas only everyday memory showed the decline on the rating of vividness, recollection and belief in the accuracy of memory (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). Talarico and Rubin suggested that individuals show the high belief in their memory accuracy when is it related to emotional arousing event due to initial visceral emotion ratings, but the actual consistency is not differ from everyday memories (Talarico & Rubin, 2003). 

In another research conducted by Pezdek (2003), researcher[grammar?] compared event memory and autobiographical event memory which is related to distress, significant and widespread consequences (i.e., September 9/11 attacks). Participants are distributed in groups based on their geographic location: (a) 275 participants from Manhattan, (b) 167 participants from California and (c) 127 participants from Hawaii (Pezdek, 2003). [missing something?]Researcher expected that the stress level would be higher for the individual live more closely to place where the event occurred due to the consequentiality of event (Pezdek, 2003). According to the final result, the participants from New York reported the least accurate details of memory in samples, whereas participants from Hawaii reported the most accurate event memory in samples (Pezdek, 2003). This study showed totally opposite example to the previous literatures[grammar?].           

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In this book chapter, a certain types of memory form was introduced, as known as flashbulb memory. Flashbulb memory refers to a vivid and highly detailed memory about situation in which people learn a surprising event (Brown and Kulik, 1997). Four theoretical models were also introduced to explain the factors provoking the flashbulb memory. [missing something?]First one was the photographic model, which empathise on the role of novelty, consequentiality and rehearsal (Brown and Kulik, 1997). For next, the comprehensive model explains the flashbulb as result of combination of the prior knowledge, novelty and consequentiality ( Finkenauer et al., 1998). Another one is [missing something?]emotional-integrative model, which is basically combination of previous two model (the photographic model and comprehensive model) ( Finkenauer et al., 1998).. The last theoretical explanation was the Importance-driven emotional reactions model which focuses on the personal importance (Er, 2003).

One of special feature of the flashbulb memory was that the young people is more likely to experience the flashbulb memory than the elders despite of the same extent of surprise, personal importance and rehearsal (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). It was found that the age difference occurred due to lack of hormonal reaction in old age (Cohen, Conway, & Maylor, 1994). Finally, there were a few arguments of the validity of flashbulb memory study. Researchers argued that the flashbulb memory can be not observed in a situation that is supposed to cause the flashbulb memory (Pezdek, 2003; Talarico & Rubin, 2003)

Even though there is some counter argument against flashbulb memory, it is clear that the studies have discovered key role of the emotion on formation of unique types of memory, and how the emotions are related to memories.   

Quiz[edit | edit source]

1 Which of the following sentences describes most correctly the flashbulb memory?

Flash bulb memory is a system for permanently storing, managing, and retrieving information for later use. Items of information stored as long-term memory may be available for a lifetime.
Flashbulb memory is the capacity for holding a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time.
Flashbulb memory is an apparent recollection of an event which did not actually occur, especially one of childhood sexual abuse arising from suggestion during psychoanalysis.
Flashbulb memory is a highly vivid memory for the circumstances in which an individual was informed extremely surprising or emotionally arousing events

2 In which of the events would an individual most likely experience a flashbulb memory?

An ordinary event that happens every day in life
An unique event that does not cause any emotional arousing such as surprise
An unique event that cause a emotional arousing such as surprise
An ordinary event that is related personally related to the individual

3 Which of the following is including the key factors that related to flashbulb memory formation?

Normality and Minor importance,
Normality and Importance
Novelty and Importance
Novelty and minor importance

4 Which of the following model is "not" related to flashbulb memory?

The multi-store model
The emotional-integrative model
The photographic model
The comprehensive model

5 Which of the following is the reason of the difficulty for the elderly people to experience flashbulb memory?

Because they don't talk about the public event as frequently as young people
Because they don't get emotionally aroused
Because they have lack of hormonal responses
Because they are too wise to experience such memory

See also[edit | edit source]

Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Emotion and memory

How We Make Memories - Crash Course Psychology #13

Remembering and Forgetting - Crash Course Psychology #14

Emotion, Stress and Health: Crash Course Psychology #26

References[edit | edit source]

Brown, R.,& Kulik, J. (1977). Flashbulb memories. Cognition5(1), 73-99.doi:10.1016/0010-0277(77)90018-X

Cohen, G., Conway, M. A., & Maylor, E. A. (1994). Flashbulb memories in older adults. Psychology and Aging9(3), 454. doi:10.1037/0882-7974.9.3.454

Er, N. (2003). A new flashbulb memory model applied to the Marmara earthquake. Applied Cognitive Psychology17(5), 503-517. DOI: 10.1002/acp.870

Finkenauer, C., Luminet, O., Gisle, L., El-Ahmadi, A., Van Der Linden, M., & Philippot, P. (1998). Flashbulb memories and the underlying mechanisms of their formation: Toward an emotional-integrative model. Memory & Cognition,26(3), 516-531.doi: 10.3758/BF03201160

Kleinginna Jr, P. R., & Kleinginna, A. M. (1981). A categorized list of emotion definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and emotion5(4), 345-379.

Luminet, O., & Curci, A. (Eds.). (2008). Flashbulb memories: New issues and new perspectives. Psychology Press

Pezdek, K. (2003). Event memory and autobiographical memory for the events of September 11, 2001. Applied Cognitive Psychology17(9), 1033-1045. DOI: 10.1002/acp.984

Reeve, J. (2014). Understanding motivation and emotion. John Wiley & Sons.

Talarico, J. M., & Rubin, D. C. (2003). Confidence, not consistency, characterizes flashbulb memories. Psychological Science14(5), 455-461. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.02453

Winograd, E., & Neisser, U. (2006). Affect and Accuracy in Recall: Studies of 'Flashbulb' Memories (Vol. 4). Cambridge University Press.