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Experimental Survey about 11th of September at the University of Duke: Flashbulb Memory Theory

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Research Question 1

A study was made to investigate flashbulb theory. This theory states that these memories or recollections for the conditions in which one initially learned of an exceptionally consequential and emotionally triggering event. A critical aspect of this study was to inspect the supposition that individuals recall sorts of open public events exceeding those common occasions that happened similarly sometime in their past. Students at the University of Duke were notified and where assessed on their memories of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States as well as a recent mundane event in their lives. This study took place on the 12th of September 2001 and the students who partook were reimbursed for their time in this study with either 10 dollars or class credit. On the 12th of September all participants were questioned on how they found out about the attacks. The students were placed in one of three follow up groups which consisted of both males and females with each section of people containing 18 people. The first group comprised of four males and fourteen females, who were tested a week later, after the attacks. The second group were tested 42 days later and consisted of 6 males and the last group had four males, who were tested 224 days after the event occurred. The study was conducted using autobiographical memory questionnaire and open-ended questionnaires. The autobiographical questionnaire used a rating scale measure intended to evaluate different properties of personal memory. The open-ended questions were asked during every study and primarily focused on inquiring into finding out explicitly about how the student knew about the terrorist attacks on the 11th of September, and the second set of questions subsequently probed into a regular occasion from the student’s life in the upcoming days before the attacks. The key features of biographical memories are the memory of the occasion and the conviction that the occasion happened are the conclusive properties of personal memory.

The members were asked as to whether the memory came in pictures or words such as a rational story and not as a disengaged actuality, perception or scene. This depended on key details to their life, not on broad understanding that they would anticipate that the majority of people should have. Emotion was an extremely important factor in this study due to it being seen as an exceptional system that that clarifies the flashbulb memory theory, there was an investigation into different passionate parts of the members' memories. The second session was identical to the first apart from the daily event was signaled with the short account that the students gave at the beginning session, while the flashbulb session was prompted with the same phrase as in the first session. Participants were also tasked to fill in a PTSD checklist for a specific experience, designed PTSD symptoms. The conclusions of this study by the authors showed that a flashbulb event amplifies characteristics of the memory, such as vividness and confidence.

Research Question 2

The study was run to investigate the effect of flashbulb theory and memories on a historical event and how it is remembered when compared to a person’s normal mundane event in their life. It fills in a gap in this specific area of research and provided an insight into memories and helps to support previous research (Brown and Kulik, 1977). Studies by Brewer (1986, 1992) aimed to develop the flashbulb theory and compare it with other forms of memory in humans. The original concept of the flashbulb theory (Brown and Kulik, 1977) was improved upon and further research showed how there was a need to experimentally test this supposition that people remember traumatic and negative public events better than normal events that happened the same amount of time ago. This was not studied or previously investigated and thus the research was restricted by the oversight of such a control. To get a reasonable portrayal of this view into the research of the correlation between flashbulb memories of the September 11th attacks and non-flashbulb memories, autobiographical memories with an average event that happened in advance of the attacks served as the control memory.

In a symposium on flashbulb recollections sorted out by Winograd and Neisser (1992), the need to exactly test this supposition that was recognized by both Rubin (1992) and Brewer (1992), who both noticed that numerous ends drawn by past research were restricted by the oversight of such a control. In this manner, to get a reasonable portrayal of non-flashbulb personal recollections from a similar timeframe as the flashbulb recollections of the September 11 assaults, we requested that members distinguish and report a regular occasion from the days going before the assaults to fill in as a control memory.

The design of this study validated the new conclusions drawn from this research about flashback memories and recollections, as we started testing one day after the flashbulb memory occasion and afterward tried each gathering just once from that point onward.

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There have been work that has followed this research, adding and expanding the way we view flashbulb memories and how they work compared to normal event memories. One such study (Tinti, Schmidt, Testa, Levine, 2014) looked at how distinct processes influence our memories on flashbulb and event memories. Their study looked into flashbulb memories in Italian citizens to describe how they felt after Italy won the 2006 Football world championship after a prolonged time of 18 months. The results of this experiment have significant ramifications for the discussion concerning whether the development of flashbulb memory and occasion memory include various procedures and for seeing how flashbulb memory can be at the same time so distinctive and vivid inclined to error. This has supported our study as the vividness of flashbulb memory is enhanced and which supports our study as our conclusion found that flashbulb events reliably impact vividness as a memory characteristic.

Research Question 3

The introduction to the research experiment was well set up to initiate the topic of the study was clear as are the goals of the research as it was set out in a concise and well written manner. The authors reasons for running the study to the inquiry of the flashbulb memory, including the investigation into what causes their event, the precision of the recollections, and the impact of feeling on them have all come into question. The specific attentiveness given to the factor of emotion into the importance of its effect on memory is responsible for most of the flashbulb memory theory. The significance of emotion is well argued as the crucial importance of emotion is a factor in our response to negative public events, although it can be critiqued as they only focused on the validity of flashbulb theory. Due to only facial expressions and the participants decision to communicate to their own level on how they feel and could not be as honest or straightforward in response. This could be improved upon in later studies and should be considered in later experiments. The independent variable is the time after which the interview was conducted and the dependent variable

The method for this study could be improved upon as the sample size was quite small. A larger sample size would allow for more responses and data on the topic and therefore be more representative. There seems to be a selection bias as the ratio to males to females was unequal. There were more females in each of the three groups and as such means that the results of the study are confounding. To enhance the study for future experiments there should be an equal sampling of males and females as this would make the results more valid and ensure validity. The sample also only featured students at the university of Duke. The lack of range in ages limits the research study as a wider variety of ages would ensue better and more representative results. To ensure reliability results should be precise and standardised the conditions of the research. The method is not that that well designed and improvements could be made for future experiments such as altering the sample size to make it more inclusive and less limited.

The results are set out in a clear and precise manner and the graphs are well explained and they include all the relevant information needed to show the findings of the research experiment. The authors conclusions from the study are reasonable and well thought out and the theoretical biases are reflected in the conclusions.

If we assume the conclusions are valid the implications of the work show how flashbulb theory reliably magnifies memory features such as confidence and vividness, which can form the basis for future studies. The study found out that none of the participant suffered from PTSD which is another useful aspect of insight that can be of use to other studies in the future.

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Experimental Survey about 11th of September at the University of Duke: Flashbulb Memory Theory. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“Experimental Survey about 11th of September at the University of Duke: Flashbulb Memory Theory.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023,
Experimental Survey about 11th of September at the University of Duke: Flashbulb Memory Theory. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].
Experimental Survey about 11th of September at the University of Duke: Flashbulb Memory Theory [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Feb 01 [cited 2023 Nov 29]. Available from:
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