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Why Some Memories Stick?

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Sarah Bahader

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Did you ever know there are certain kinds of memories which people are more likely to remember than others?

It is said that the most memorable events are those associated with emotions, and that emotionally charged experiences are more likely to be remembered than less emotionally charged experiences. Emotionally charged memories are the ones that had impacted you emotionally one way or another. In one experiment conducted by Kevin LaBar and Elizabeth Phelps, participants were presented with a set of words (neutral and arousing words) and they were asked to recall them. The study showed that participants were able to recall arousing words more than neutral words. The part of the brain which is involved in this phenomenon is called the Amygdala. Brain scan studies have proven that activity in the amygdala is increased when recalling emotional memories. If this means anything, then it means the brain reacts differently to emotional memories.

Another type of memory that one is more likely to remember is “flashbulb memories”, which are memories for special events. It refers to the memory of the circumstances surrounding hearing an event and not the event itself. These kinds of memories are often described as the taking of a photograph. Some believe there is nothing special about flashbulb memories as it has been found in a study that there was little difference in the remembrance of flashbulb memories and everyday memories. Nonetheless, they observed one noticeable difference which is people’s beliefs about everyday and flashbulb memories. Participants in the study thought their reports of flashbulb memories were more accurate than everyday memories. They also were more able to relive flashbulb memories. This difference in how people view those two types of memories might be the reason why flashbulb memories are considered more special. However, it is not enough to prove that flashbulb memories are more accurate or stronger.

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