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Psychol Aging. 2010 Jun;25(2):391-404. doi: 10.1037/a0017532.

Effects of age on phenomenology and consistency of flashbulb memories of September 11 and a staged control event.

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School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK.


In two studies, the special status of flashbulb memories was investigated by contrasting the effects of age on the phenomenology and consistency of flashbulb memories of September 11, over a 2-year delay period, with those of a mundane staged control event: participants learning that they had not won a small prize. Flashbulb memories produced no significant age effects for either phenomenological characteristics or test-retest consistency, as predicted by Mather's (2004) emotional compensation hypothesis. By contrast, the control event resulted in significant age effects for phenomenological characteristics (e.g., specificity and the amount of detail recalled) but not for test-retest consistency. Furthermore, in both age groups, memories of September 11 were significantly more vivid, detailed, and consistent than control memories even though the test-retest interval was twice as long for flashbulb memories. In addition, correlations between consistency scores and ratings of rehearsal were positive for control memories but negative for flashbulb memories. The theoretical implications of these findings for research on cognitive aging and flashbulb memories are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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