What were you doing when the man came to the moon? And when did the Berlin Wall come down? And when the Twin Towers fell? If we have experienced all of these events, we can have an exact and precise answer.
We remember these moments with great precision. Because? This is what Roger Brown’s theory of memory explores.
A brief introduction: Robert Brown
Roger Brown was a renowned American psychologist famous for his many studies and contributions to various areas of psychology, especially his studies of human language and its development.
Brown has also been instrumental in the study of memory, including research conducted alongside James Kulik into the vivid tale of what people did at times of great historical significance, coined the term flashbulb memory.
RAM or “flash memories”
Flashbulb memories or vivid memories they refer to the precise, intense and persistent memory of the circumstances surrounding a situation of great importance in our lives. He remembers the fact himself and what we were doing just as it was happening or when we found out about it.
The feeling of the person having these memories is equivalent to the feeling of having something like a photograph or a piece of film always available in memory, completely clear and without possibility of error.
These are usually events of great historical significance. Examples are given, for example, in people who remember exactly when man arrived on the moon, the assassination of Kennedy or Martin Luther King, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attacks. the most recent against towers.
Why do we remember it so faithfully?
Usually when we want to remember something, the same information has to be repeated over and over or that it is linked to other knowledge so that they generate a memory imprint this allows you to remember it later. The nerve connections stimulated by the learning carried out must be strengthened. If it is never used or considered useful, our organization considers that the information is neither relevant nor useful and will end up forgetting it.
But many memories are held much more permanently without the need to repeat them over and over again. This is due to the role of emotions. It is well known that when an event arouses an intense emotion in us, it generates a much more powerful and permanent memory imprint than events without emotional significance. For example, the first kiss or the birth of a child.
This is the case with events that generate flash memories, the main reason why these moments and the circumstances around them are remembered so vividly is similar to that of emotional activation: we are faced with an unexpected event that surprises us greatly. Following the surprise, we deal with the importance of this event and that, along with the emotional reaction generated by the awareness of this relevance, ends up eliciting a strong memory of what happened and the circumstances surrounding it.
But it should be borne in mind that the events in themselves are recorded if they are important to the person who remembers them or feels some identification with what happened or with the people involved. For example, the memory of what was being done at the time of Martin Luther King’s assassination is generally more powerful for African-American subjects who suffered the effects of racial segregation in the United States than for the Caucasian population.
Are these memories completely reliable?
However, while a large portion of people claim to remember what happened with great precision and the strong emotional impact it had on their lives, the overall reliability of those memories is questionable.
In general, the most essential information of the event is memorizedBut we have to keep in mind that our memory tends to focus on capturing the most relevant information, and that whenever we remember something, the mind is actually doing a reconstruction of the facts.
If our mind cannot find the relevant information, we subconsciously tend to fill in the blanks with conspiracy. In other words, we usually combine and even create materials that look relevant and fit into our retouching.
Thus, it is common for us to subconsciously falsify our memories. It has been found that the number of correctly memorized details decreases over time, although the person still believes that all the details stay fresh. And it is that little by little we are crushing the most peripheral information. All this being the subject himself completely convinced that the memory is real and as he explains it.
- Brown, R. and Kulik, J. (1977). Flashbulb memories. Cognition, 5, 73-99. Harvard University.
- Tamayo, W. (2012). Flashbulb memories and social representations. Joint study proposal. Journal of Psychospaces, 6 (7); pp. 183-199.