Flashbulb Memory - Accuracy - Personal Involvement and Proximity

Personal Involvement and Proximity

It has been documented that people that are involved in a flashbulb event have more accurate recollections compared to people that were not involved in the event. Recollections of those who experienced the Marmara earthquake in Turkey had more accurate recollections of the event than people who had no direct experience. In this study, the majority of participants in the victim group recalled more specific details about the earthquake compared to the group that was not directly affected by the earthquake, and rather received their information about it from the news. Another study compared Californians' memories of an earthquake that happened in California to the memories of the same earthquake formed by people who were living in Atlanta. The results indicated that the people that were personally involved with the earthquake had better recall of the event. Californians' recall of the event were much higher than Atlantans', with the exception of those who had relatives in the affected area, such that they reported being more personally involved.

A study conducted on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks demonstrates that proximity plays a part in the accuracy of recall of flashbulb memories. Three years after the terrorist attacks, participants were asked to retrieve memories of 9/11, as well as memories of personally selected control events from 2001. At the time of the attacks, some participants were in the downtown Manhattan region, closer to the World Trade Center, while others were in Midtown, a few miles away. The participants who were closer to downtown recalled more emotionally significant detailed memories than the Midtown participants. When looking solely at the Manhattan participants, the retrieval of memories for 9/11 were accompanied by an enhancement in recollective experience relative to the retrieval of other memorable life events in only a subset of participants who were, on average, two miles from the World Trade Center (around Washington Square) and not in participants who were, on average, 4.5 miles from the World Trade Center (around the Empire State Building). Although focusing only on participants that were in Manhattan on 9/11, the recollections of those closer to the World Trade Center were more vivid than those who were farther away. The downtown participants reported seeing, hearing, and even smelling what had happened. Personal involvement in, or proximity to, a national event could explain greater accuracy in memories because there could be more significant consequences for the people involved, such as the death of a loved one, which can create more emotional activation in the brain. This emotional activation in the brain has been shown to be involved in the recall of flashbulb memories.

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Famous quotes containing the words proximity, personal and/or involvement:

    Our senses perceive no extreme. Too much sound deafens us; too much light dazzles us; too great distance or proximity hinders our view. Too great length and too great brevity of discourse tends to obscurity; too much truth is paralyzing.... In short, extremes are for us as though they were not, and we are not within their notice. They escape us, or we them.
    Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)

    What stunned me was the regular assertion that feminists were “anti-family.” . . . It was motherhood that got me into the movement in the first place. I became an activist after recognizing how excruciatingly personal the political was to me and my sons. It was the women’s movement that put self-esteem back into “just a housewife,” rescuing our intelligence from the junk pile of “instinct” and making it human, deliberate, powerful.
    Mary Kay Blakely (20th century)

    I recommend limiting one’s involvement in other people’s lives to a pleasantly scant minimum. This may seem too stoical a position in these madly passionate times, but madly passionate people rarely make good on their madly passionate promises.
    Quentin Crisp (b. 1908)