This essay will evaluate flashbulb memory on how emotion can affect cognitive process.

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Evaluate one theory of how emotion may affect one cognitive process [22]

Flashbulb memory

IB HL2 Psychology

Mr. Parker

Period 2

Jesseril Suriawinata

This essay will evaluate flashbulb memory on how emotion can affect cognitive process. Emotions are a mix of subjective experiences comprised of physiological changes and cognitive appraisal. Early theories of emotion have emphasized the relevance of the biological aspects while later theories have focused on the cognitive component of emotion. However, modern research have approached it as an interactive combination of both biological and cognitive experiences. In 1977, Brown and Kulik proposed the theory of flashbulb memory, memories that are vivid in detail, long lasting, and accurate because of its emotional relevance, aspect of surprise, and important consequences. Neisser, on the other hand, believes that the constant rehearsal and accessibility of the events resort to the maintenance of these “concrete” memories, which is eventually stored into long-term memory. More specifically, it’s believed that flashbulb memory is stored in the amygdala, responsible for emotional and episodic memory. It sets itself apart from other memories because of its supposed longevity and “photographic” conclusiveness. The theory also proposes a special neural mechanism that stimulates an emotional response to the shocking event as a makeup of flashbulb memory. Essentially, the main premise of flashbulb memory is that it is resistant to change, long lasting, and accurate in detail. It is due to the emotional aroused experience during the moment and immediacy an individual has to an event, which registered a permanent and increasing residence in their memory.  

Brown and Kulik (1977) conducted a study to investigate their emotion theory. Forty white Americans and 40 black Americans participated in a questionnaire that measured the elaborate clarity of important historical events such as JFK’s assassination. There were nine events that were associated on a national scale and one event that they were able to choose based on personal relevance involving shock (majority of them included a parent’s death). They found that white participants remembered more events concerning white people; likewise black people recalled more events concerning black people. This brought them to conclude that race does have a factor in an individual’s recall, which suggest consequentiality, surprise, and shock of an event is significant in its distinctly vivid memory. They believed that the factor of surprise and the emotional relevance causes people to hold a stronger memory of the event and is therefore determinants to formulate the flashbulb memory phenomena.

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The results were replicated in Tall Sharot’s 9/11 (2007) experiment. They separated the participants into a downtown (near to WTC) and midtown groups. DT participants recalled for more detail of 9/11 than participants in midtown, vice versa for memory of summer vacation. The DT group often mentioned direct threat and the sensory experience they had during the witnessing of the 9/11 incident. They found that not only is personal involvement is important in the formation of flashbulb memory, but that the amygdala is more activated given a experiences with higher emotional impact; in other words, the proximity of people to ...

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