9/11 and the death of Princess Diana are the most remembered events of the past 25 years globally. Whilst we were nowhere near New York or Paris, many of us have the most detailed memories of where we were when it happened, whom we were with and how we felt.
Ever wondered why?
These vivid recollections are called Flashbulb memories. Their name comes from the olden days flash a photographer would use which would flash in one short instant leaving the moment captured in a photo. They may relate to events of the world or to personal events. What makes these memories different from our day to day memories is how real they still feel, even after a long time has passed. We remember the context, the moment, the emotions. They are imprinted in our minds with a clarity that defies time.
So what creates flashbulb memories?
The first element is surprise, the happening of an event that not only was unexpected but is actually incredibly surprising.
The second element is personal significance. This event matters to me deeply.
And finally the event created a very strong emotional reaction.
But even if those memories are incredibly vivid, do not be fooled into believing that they are any more accurate that your day-to-day memories. Studies have shown they are not! The vividness of those memories is simply tricking us into believing they are very accurate!
My favourite personal flashbulb memory is that of my husband proposing. I had no idea it was coming, and as he guided me through the corridors of a lovely hotel, I realised what was happening. I can still feel my emotions walking those corridors, 27 years later. And I don't mind if what I remember is not exactly how it happened. To me it was perfect!