Flashbulb Memories

William Hirst, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review and analyze the key theories, debates, findings, and omissions of the existing literature on flashbulb memories (FBMs), including what factors affect their formation, retention, and degree of confidence. We argue that FBMs do not require special memory mechanisms and are best characterized as involving both forgetting and mnemonic distortions, despite their being associated with high levels of confidence. Factual memories for FBM-inducing events generally follow a similar pattern. Although no necessary and sufficient factors straightforwardly account for FBM retention, media attention particularly shapes memory for the events themselves. FBMs are best characterized in terms of repetitions, even of mnemonic distortions, whereas event memories evidence corrections. The bearing of this literature on social identity and traumatic memories is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-41
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • confidence
  • event memory
  • flashbulb memory
  • memory
  • social identity
  • traumatic memories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Flashbulb Memories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this