New Page 1

Evaluate one theory of how emotion may affect one cognitive process

Flashbulb memory is an easy one to use here:

Brown and Kulik (1977) The theory of flashbulb memory (FM):

·         Flashbulb memories are a type of episodic memory (explicit memory). It is assumed that they are highly resistant to forgetting, i.e. the details of the memory will remain intact and accurate because of the emotional arousal at the moment of encoding. This is controversial.

·         FM can be defined as a highly accurate and exceptionally vivid memory of the moment a person first hears about a shocking event.

·         The “flashbulb” indicates that the event will be registered like a photograph, i.e. it will be accurate in detail.

·         Brown and Kulik suggested that FM is often rehearsed because it is important or emotionally salient to the individual and this makes the memory more accessible and vividly remembered over time.

According to the theory, there are six important features about FM that people remember in detail:

·         place (i.e. where they were when the incident happened)

·         ongoing activity (i.e. what they were doing)

·         informant (i.e. how they learned about the incident)

·         own affect (i.e. how they felt – their emotional status or affect)

·         other affect (i.e. how other people felt)

·         aftermath (i.e. importance of the event – the consequences).

Studies to use:

For pro FM: Brown and Kulik (1977)

For anti FM: Neisser and Harsch (1992)

Strengths of the FM theory:

·         The theory can, to some extent, explain why very emotional memories are often more vividly remembered over time, but it cannot explain why these memories are often no more accurate than any other memory (except perhaps for some central details).

·         The theory has generated many research studies and the theory has been modified. The idea that emotional events are better remembered than non-emotional events is supported, but modified with the idea that the event should have specific personal relevance.

Limitations of the FM theory

·         “Flashbulb” refers to the flashbulb used in photography, but the name may not be well-chosen as the photograph taken with a flashbulb preserves everything in the scene as it was at the time the picture was taken.

·         An FM is a “reconstructed memory” where the emotional importance of the event may influence the way the memory is reconstructed – particularly if it is discussed with other people over time (confabulation) or if the memory does not have particular personal relevance.