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Accuracy of Flashbulb Memories

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The Accuracy of Flashbulb Memories

Flashbulb memories are emotionally intense and detailed memories which have been proven to be just as susceptible to factors which facilitate false memory as normal memories (Lilienfeld et al., 2016). I was in Mexico in 2017 for a music festival and a targeted attack at the venue I was at resulted in the shooting of 5 people and a stampede. A recent visit from a friend I shared this experience with brought to my attention that my memory may have not been as accurate as I thought. As we swapped stories, a third friend who I had contacted immediately after the shooting, both verbally and via text, noticed that my story had changed over the last 12 months. I rate my memory of this event a 5 due to source monitoring confusion – the misperception of the source of a memory (Lilienfeld et al., 2016). For days after the shooting it was all my friends and I could talk about. Studies have highlighted the fact that remembering events is usually done within a social setting – this leaves us vulnerable to embellishment and repetition of incorrect information, which can distract us from the natural scepticism of source monitoring (Bartholomew, 2001).

Other Consequences of False Memories

As the music festival had over 70,000 attendees, it was a high publicity event. This leaves it particularly vulnerable to the misinformation effect – the creation of false memories via incorrect or skewed information after an event takes place (TED, 2013). With situations like this arising commonly, this cycle of misinformation leads to sensationalism, feeds stereotypes and then represented by the media on a global scale, leading to an effect on tourism. Mexico is generally portrayed to be dangerous, however, the Yucatan region where the festival was held was a safe tourist destination for many years before the shooting, with the festival being in its 10th year. Just like legal personnel and psychotherapists, journalists hold the same power of influence over the way people evaluate their memories. They have their own interests in dramatizing situations for a news story and in turn may use the appropriate interviewing techniques – such as leading questions - to attain the recollections that best suit these goals.

Reduction of False Memories

On a personal level, keeping a journal would help reduce false memories. Most of my false memories were related to the smaller details of the situation. Keeping a highly detailed journal would be a good point of reference when source monitoring confusion occurs. There were also times in my conversations with others where I was aware of exaggerations and didn’t speak up – I then encoded these and they eventually became part of my memory. Therefore, healthy argument should occur in social situations to challenge everyone to



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