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Psychol Aging. 1994 Sep;9(3):454-63.

Flashbulb memories in older adults.

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Human Cognition Research Laboratory, Open University, Milton Keynes, England.


In this study of age differences in flashbulb memory, groups of young and older adults gave detailed accounts of how they heard the news of the resignation of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. They were tested within 14 days after the event and again 11 months later. They also gave ratings for the encoding variables (surprise, emotion, importance, knowledge, and interest) and for frequency of rehearsal. Memories that met a strict criterion of consistency between the original and delayed responses were classified as flashbulb memories. Although 90% of young Ss had flashbulb memories, only 42% of the elderly met the criterion. The age groups also differed in the type of details remembered and in the relationship between the encoding and rehearsal variables and the occurrence of flashbulb memory. The age-related deficit in flashbulb memory is related to source amnesia and to a deficit in memory for context.

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