For the form of read-only computer memory, see Flash memory.
A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid ‘snapshot’ of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard. The term “flashbulb memory” suggests the surprise, indiscriminate illumination, detail, and brevity of a photograph; however flashbulb memories are only somewhat indiscriminate and are far from complete. Evidence has shown that although people are highly confident in their memories, the details of the memories can be forgotten.
Flashbulb memories are one type of autobiographical memory. Some researchers believe that there is reason to distinguish flashbulb memories from other types of autobiographical memory because they rely on elements of personal importance, consequentiality, emotion, and surprise. Others believe that ordinary memories can also be accurate and long-lasting if they are highly distinctive, personally significant, or repeatedly rehearsed.
Flashbulb memories have six characteristic features: place, ongoing activity, informant, own effect, other effect, and aftermath. Arguably, the principal determinants of a flashbulb memory are a high level of surprise, a high level of consequentiality, and perhaps emotional arousal.
1 Historical overview
2 Positive vs. negative
4.1 Stability over time
4.2 Relation to autobiographical memory
4.3 Importance of an event
4.5 Distinctiveness of an event
4.6 Personal involvement and proximity
4.7 Source of Information
5 Demographic differences
5.1 Age differences
5.2 Cultural variations
7 Controversy: special mechanism hypothesis
7.1 Supporting evidence
7.2 Opposing evidence
8.1 The photographic model
8.2 Comprehensive model
8.3 Emotional-integrative model
8.4 Importance-driven emotional reactions model
8.5 Compared to traumatic memories
9 Neurological bases
10 Critique of research
11 See also
The term flashbulb memory was coined by Brown and Kulik in 1977. They formed the special-mechanism hypothesis, which argues for the existence of a special biological memory mechanism that, when triggered by an event exceeding critical levels of surprise and consequentiality, creates a permanent record of the details and circumstances surrounding the experience. Brown and Kulik