Otani H, Kusumi T, Kato K, Matsuda K, Kern RP, Widner R Jr, Ohta N.
Memory. 2005 Jan;13(1):6-20.
Flashbulb memories are vivid memories of the details surrounding the discovery of an emotional event. We investigated whether the nuclear accident that occurred in Japan in 1999 produced flashbulb memories among people who lived near the accident site. A questionnaire was distributed twice (approximately 3 weeks after the accident and 1 year later) to (1) the residents of the communities surrounding the accident site, (2) the students at a university near the accident site, and (3) the students at two universities far away from the accident site.
Flashbulb memory holders were defined as those individuals who showed consistent memories between test and retest. The results indicated that only a small percentage of participants formed flashbulb memories. Further, no age-related decline was found. Flashbulb memories were distinguished by perfect or near perfect scores on four attributes: source, place, activity, and people. The results also indicated that the ratings on emotional reactions, personal consequentiality, and surprise did not differentiate between the flashbulb and non-flashbulb memory holders. In contrast, the flashbulb memory holders reported rehearsing more than the non-flashbulb memory holders. These results supported the notion that flashbulb memories are formed through rehearsal rather than at encoding. However, it is also possible that rehearsal was a result of the flashbulb memory.