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J Gen Psychol. 2009 Apr;136(2):129-50. doi: 10.3200/GENP.136.2.129-152.

Features of autobiographical memory: theoretical and empirical issues in the measurement of flashbulb memory.

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University of Bari, Department of Psychology, Piazza Umberto I, 1, 70121 Bari, Italy.


Flashbulb memories (FBMs) were defined by R. Brown and J. Kulik (1977) as vivid, detailed, and long-lasting memories for attributes of the reception context of public news. Unlike ordinary autobiographical memories, they are conceived as autobiographical formations that noticeably integrate specific perceptual details. The authors aimed to test a measurement model for FBMs as compared with event memory (EM) by hypothesizing that a categorical, rather than dimensional, approach would be more appropriate to account for FBM data. They submitted FBM and EM recollections from U.S. and European citizens concerning the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to latent-trait model (LTM) and latent-class model (LCM) analyses. Results revealed that FBM data could be appropriately modeled through LCM, whereas for EM, LTM and LCM exhibited some inadequacy. The authors discuss implications for a theoretical account of FBMs.

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