Introduction to Psychology/Memory/Flashbulb Memories

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(Brown & Kulik, 1977)[edit]

Where were you on September 11th? Every so-often, an event occurs that stays in the public conscience as an almost photographic memory for the rest of people's lives; JFK's assassination, Princess Diana's car crash, and many more, and we are able to recall unprecedented details about the events.

Brown & Kulik (1977) described such memories as flashbulb memories, and coined the expression "Now Print!" as the process by which such memories seem to be effortlessly created, The key characteristics of flashbulb memories are:

  • Vivid
  • Significant amount of detail
  • Long lasting (a person may be able to recall a flashbulb memory for the rest of their lives)
  • Often of emotional significance in the person's life; Robinson (1980) used cues with participants in a study and found that the recall rates for emotional word cues were faster than those for non-emotional words, which would suggest that emotion has a role in memory.

flashbulb memory is memories

What affects flashbulb memories?[edit]

The relevance or emotional significance of an event to a person's life would seem to increase its likelihood of being stored as a 'flashbulb memory'. Brown and Kulik found that 75% of black people asked were able to recall the assassination of Martin Luther King, while just 33% of white people asked could do the same.


Excerpt from Memory at Hypnotic World Psychology. Used with permission.