Long-Term Memory for the Terrorist Attack of September 11: Flashbulb Memories, Event Memories, and the Factors That Influence Their Retention

William Hirst, Elizabeth A. Phelps, Randy L. Buckner, Andrew E. Budson, Alexandru Cuc, John D E Gabrieli, Marcia K. Johnson, Cindy Lustig, Keith B. Lyle, Mara Mather, Robert Meksin, Karen J. Mitchell, Kevin N. Ochsner, Daniel L. Schacter, Jon S. Simons, Chandan J. Vaidya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

More than 3,000 individuals from 7 U.S. cities reported on their memories of learning of the terrorist attacks of September 11, as well as details about the attack, 1 week, 11 months, and/or 35 months after the assault. Some studies of flashbulb memories examining long-term retention show slowing in the rate of forgetting after a year, whereas others demonstrate accelerated forgetting. This article indicates that (a) the rate of forgetting for flashbulb memories and event memory (memory for details about the event itself) slows after a year, (b) the strong emotional reactions elicited by flashbulb events are remembered poorly, worse than nonemotional features such as where and from whom one learned of the attack, and (c) the content of flashbulb and event memories stabilizes after a year. The results are discussed in terms of community memory practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-176
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume138
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2009

Keywords

  • emotional memory
  • event memory
  • flashbulb memories
  • long-term retention
  • memory practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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