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Role of Culture in Flashbulb Memories: Analytical Essay

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Cultural dimensions are a multitude of indicators that were studied and consequently created by Geert Hofstede, an IBM employee. He traveled the world and surveyed other IBM employees. His job required him to study how a multinational organization and how employees worked together. This study was crucial to IBM as workplace misunderstandings could affect the finances of a multinational corporation. The idea of cultural dimensions refers to the values to which national culture is based on. One such dimension in the larger body of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions is the idea of individualism and collectivism in different cultures. Individualism is the focus on one’s ambitions and goals whilst, in contrast, collectivism focuses on the greater good of a group and places the group’s needs first.

Individualistic cultures are more focused on Northern America and West Europe. Collectivistic cultures are most present in East Asia and China, this is due to the group’s needs being ingrained into Asian culture. Throughout history, rice paddies were a main part of the life of Asian farmers, they had to make sure every variable was controlled because if it was not, the yield would be substantially lower. This developed a sense of groups within a culture that differs from Western ideals, the farmers in Asia did not want to feel good, they strived for constant improvement in their methods, a choice that is reflected in the cultures of most Southeast Asian countries which tend to be more collectivist than individualistic.

Kullkofsky et al wanted to study the role of culture, and if it played a role in flashbulb memories. This study aimed to solidify the claim that individualism and collectivism can influence cognition, such as memory. They also wanted to study the difference between individualistic and collectivist cultures in how much flashbulb memories they could recall accurately. The sample group was made of 274 adults from China, Turkey, Germany, the UK, and the USA, all of the adults were considered to be “middle-class”. The participants were given 5 minutes to recall a public event that had to have happened at least a year ago. The examiner had the questions translated by interpreters to increase the strength of the test, avoid possible confusion, and increase the chances of an accurate recall by the participants. The questions were based on how the person felt about the event, and their surroundings when the event took place. Kullkofsky found, that in his research, national importance was equally important to flashbulb memory formation across cultures. However, he also found that an individualistic culture such as the US had more flashbulb memories than collectivistic cultures such as China. This is because in collectivistic cultures it is not culturally appropriate to focus on oneself’s emotions and feelings as much as an individualistic culture where it is about ‘me’ where the US participants focused on their emotions and feelings, something out of the question in collectivist cultures.

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This study has high ecological validity as it places the subjects in a real-life scenario, with the same language questions they are better able to connect with the language and recall better. In contrast, the danger of ecological fallacies is dangerous to the test because it is based on the Western test by Brown and Kulik, which uses standard-based interview questions. The ecological fallacy this test has that is based on the assumption that everyone from one culture would recall that one specific event or react in the same way. In addition, the importance of events could be a major factor in the rapidity and accuracy of recall in the participants, for example, if one person from an individualistic culture has a strong recall about a very big public event, he would have more accuracy and be able to recall faster than someone from a collectivistic culture. An example of this would be the Twin Tower attacks in the US, it is a very big event that every American remembers, compared to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China, were government redaction and the collectivistic nature of their culture would result in less recall. This study links to the cultural dimension theory and is for it by illustrating it in action and showing that, to a degree, it influences flashbulb memory.

Kullkofsky’s test on individualism vs collectivism can be recreated without the need of many factors, the main factors in this test include the participant’s culture (individualistic or collectivist), and their ability to recall an event. The study is valid and controls all the variables as much as possible to not influence the data, an example of this is the questions asked in the person’s native language, this removes language barriers. The translators also back-translated what the person said to ensure accuracy. Its high ecological validity solidifies the study’s reputation as being a trusted study that can be applied to a wide range of scenarios.

In conclusion, there is a notable correlation between individualism and collectivism and their likelihood to create flashbulb memories. It is important to keep in mind which type of culture any participant can influence the memory, it is also imperative to question how far the research can go on before the results get distorted.

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Role of Culture in Flashbulb Memories: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
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