It is said enough by now to be treated as a truism: No one will forget the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. But are people right? Will this emotionally wrenching, traumatic and historically important event remain indelibly in individual and American consciousness? Will it never be forgotten? Psychologists have studied such events under the rubric of flashbulb memories, focusing on the vivid memories people have of the circumstances under which they learned about the traumatic event. The attack of September 11 offers a unique and unprecedented opportunity to extend this line of research. No previously studied event elicits the level of emotion and reaches the same degree of historical importance as 9/11. As such, it represents what might be thought of as the definitive case study of flashbulb memory. The present project involves a collaborative arrangement of memory researchers across the United States. Between September 17 and September 24, the consortium distributed a questionnaire across the US, in one location in Europe, and to special populations such as the elderly. With 1495 returned questionnaires, 546 of them from residents of New York City or its surrounding area, the study offers a means of comprehensively and thoroughly studying flashbulb memories of 9/11, as well as a chance to investigate regional differences. Two follow-up surveys will be conducted -- one year and three years after the attack. The proposed research will explore the accuracy and distortions, as well as confidence, found in memories for the circumstances in which survey respondent's learned of the attack and will investigate predictors of recollective success. In an extension of the extant work focusing on memory for circumstances, the proposed research will also examine memory for the """"""""content of the event"""""""" and the """"""""meaning of the event, the relation between flashbulb memories and collective memory, and memory forecasting, affective forecasting, and event forecasting. The study will provide a deeper understanding of flashbulb memories and the extent to which collective memories are based on distortions, even in instances in which one asserts confidentlv the validity of the memorv.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
1R01MH066972-01
Application #
6560184
Study Section
Biobehavioral and Behavioral Processes 3 (BBBP)
Program Officer
Kurtzman, Howard S
Project Start
2002-12-01
Project End
2005-11-30
Budget Start
2002-12-01
Budget End
2003-11-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2003
Total Cost
$216,680
Indirect Cost
Name
New School University
Department
Psychology
Type
Other Domestic Higher Education
DUNS #
071030969
City
New York
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
10011
Hirst, William; Phelps, Elizabeth A (2016) Flashbulb Memories. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 25:36-41
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