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How does memory work in the brain?
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Flashbulb memories

Flashbulb memories are an example of an emotional experience effecting memory systems.

The Argument

A flashbulb memory is an extremely detailed, specific memory associated with an emotional (often traumatic or widespread) event. These memories often have the characteristic of mundane information being remembered with extreme detail and accuracy. They are generally associated with an event that was surprising and emotional, or traumatic. A common example is that many people recall their exact situation when receiving news of the 9/11 terrorist attack in the U.S.[1] Flashbulb memories are distinguished from other memories due to a reversal of the heavily encoded aspects. In most memories, the more important, emotional, or relevant information is more deeply encoded. In a flashbulb memory, although it is usually surrounding an emotional event, it is the random, insignificant details that are encoded extremely accurately.

Counter arguments

Flashbulb memories are just emotional memories, nothing special. Lots of memories are emotional, and flashbulb memories are just extra emotional ones or coincidences. There's nothing particularly unique about a flashbulb memory that justifies giving it its own classification.



[P1] Some memories include extreme accuracy regarding minute details. [P2] In most instances this happens surrounding an emotional event. [P3] This special type of emotional encoding is known as a flashbulb memory.

Rejecting the premises


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