As we learned last week, flashbulb memories are easily morphed and altered within ones mind. A researcher at New York University by the name of Elizabeth Phelps, in conjunction with other researches around the world, has been looking at flashbulb memories connected to the September 11th attacks here in New York. More specifically, she has been looking at how people’s proximity to the actual event affects their memories of the event. She conducted MRI scans on people in New York City and the surrounding area to gauge how their brains reacted to remembering the event. She found that the part of the brain that reacts when feeling physically threatened was more active in people who were actually close to the towers as opposed to people who were farther removed. The study is still underway, and is being run in conjunction with a database that is scheduled to open to the public this year. Whether this affects how accurately people’s flashbulb memories of events are preserved is unclear, but Phelps’ own research may help to fill in that gap. Her other research focuses on the connection of memory and emotion, an interesting pairing when you consider how strongly emotions play into what you do and do not remember. Just thinking of how people suppress memories due to trauma makes clear how relevant her field of study promises to be.
A Brief Video About Phelps' 9/11 Research
An Article About Phelps
Phelps' NYU Lab Website
The 9/11 National Memory Survey website