Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mechanisms underlying distortions in flashbulb memories for September 11, 2001
by Winkel, Rebecca, Ph.D., New School University, 2009, 77; 3359052
Abstract (Summary)

Each time a memory is retrieved, its reconstruction is influenced by a host of factors. Emotion is typically recalled as a central component of people's flashbulb memory. Events that lead to flashbulb memories evoke highly charged emotions that are new experiences each time an individual has thoughts of the event. Despite the claim of most people that they will never forget their flashbulb memories, memories for the emotions associated with flashbulb memories are frequently inaccurate. Our research revealed that these distortions in memory for emotion follow specific patterns of Implicit Theories of Change and Stability and Emotional Appraisal Theory. In this dissertation, we focus on flashbulb memories of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. A total of 3,246 surveys were distributed and collected from 7 major cities across the country 1 week, 11 months and 35 months after the attacks. Questions on the survey pertain to circumstances in which participants learned of event, emotional and social/psychological attitudes and impact, facts about the events, demographic information and rating scales for confidence. Two mechanisms found to govern 9/11 flashbulb memory errors were expectations and current emotion. When people erroneously recalled past emotion at the time of the terrorist attacks, the mistakes they made tended towards overestimating their feelings of shock. This shift in emotion follows an implicit theories of change based on an expectation that they would have felt shocked during a significant and consequential event in the past. Generally, people hold implicit theories of stability regarding their emotions. This is evidenced by the fact that current emotion drives recall for former emotion.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hirst, William
School: New School University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Social psychology, Experimental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Emotions, Memory, September 11, 2001, Trauma
Publication Number: 3359052
ISBN: 978-1-109-18608-6
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