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9-11 and Flashbulb Memories, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 343

Essay

In the December 15, 2006 edition of the Telegraph newspaper, the author Roger Highfield discusses the formation of vivid memories in relation to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In particular, Highfield (2006) discusses the formation of so-called flashbulb memories, defined as “remarkable picture-like recollections” of the event in question.

The article, referring to scientific studies on flashbulb relations pertaining to the terror attacks, forwards the position that memory formation is not dependent upon a “unique brain mechanism” (Highfield, 2006), but rather upon the embodied witnessing of events. Hence, the highly detailed recollections of an event such as 9-11 are connected to the direct empirical observation of the tragedy.

In particular, the physical witnessing of events directly affects the amygdala, “a small almond-shaped brain structure known to mediate emotion’s influence on memory.” (Highfield, 2006) Accordingly, the proximity to events in the form of their direct observance can be said to activate the amygdala in a more radical fashion. This in turn creates the detailed recollection of events that resembles a photographic form of memory, a process that yields the logic behind the term “flashbulb memory.”

From these studies, a more complex account of human consciousness, psychology, and memory emerges. Namely, flashbulb memories cannot merely be reduced to a type of neuroscience that only addresses the phenomenon of the brain. An element of physical embodiment and relation to an environment are decisive for the detailed functioning of memory. Arguably, what the flashbulb memories of 9-11 also indicate, is that not only are the phenomena of embodiment and environment crucial to the production of such memories, but the subject of the memory itself must be compelling enough to generate the flashbulb effect. In the case of 9-11, the significance of the event is clear, thus giving us an account of flashbulb memory that includes three crucial elements: the physical functioning of the mind; the embodiment of the subject in an environment; and the content of the event that is observed.

References

Highfield, R. (2006). “9/11 Study Reveals How Flashbulb Memories Form.” The Telegraph. December 15. Accessed at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3350048/911-Study-Reveals-How-Flashbulb-Memories-Form.html

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