Do you have a good memory?

Remember when the twin towers fell? Remember when the Fort Hood shootings broke out? Are you confident about what you were doing at the time? What if someone told you that your memories change?

Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University Charles A. Weaver III spoke about flashbulb memory at the College of Science lecture Nov. 4 at Shelton Theater.

“What is it that makes flashbulb memories special? Not their accuracy, but your belief in their accuracy,” Weaver said. “You will tell with confidence, ‘On 9/11 I was doing XYZ.’ You may or may not be right, but you will be confident. That’s probably what defines flashbulb memory,” Weaver said.

A traumatic and/or personally affecting situation usually occurs in order for this kind of memory to be formed.

“What leads to good memory? Emotion, significance, rehearsal, distinctiveness, imagery, all of those things (are usually) true of flashbulb memories,” Weaver said.

So, these memories depend on events that affect the individual.

In the past, psychologists assumed that flashbulb memories lined up 100 percent with what events really happened.

“In order to know if your memory is correct, I have to know what you were really doing,” Weaver said.

To test the accuracy of these memories, Weaver has to get responses from people right after terrible events. On Sept. 11, 2001, he found it difficult, emotionally, to research.

“We did a 9/11 study right after this happened. I’ve got to tell you, it’s the most conflicted I ever was.”

Sophomore Christian studies and psychology major Brittany Beltran thought the talk was interesting.

“I personally have a really bad memory, so I never depend on my memory,” Beltran said.

After a flashbulb memory moment, a person becomes confident in the memory.

“With the memories themselves, like all other memories, (they) change before you get your story straight. Once you get your story straight, then you’re going to stick with it,” Weaver said.

Assistant psychology professor Trent Terrell earned his education in Baylor, learning under Weaver. Terrell was a subject in Weaver’s study on 9/11.

“He was my mentor in grad school,” Terrell said.

After a recent tragedy, he said he “conducted a study of UMHB students following the Fort Hood shootings.”

Terrell said that memory is not set in stone.

“Every time you retrieve a memory, it’s a chance for that memory to change.”

Author: Evangeline Grace Ciupek

Evangeline Grace Ciupek is currently studying English at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and plans to graduate in May 2011. She joined The Bells staff Spring 2009. She is usually found reading enormous books assigned to her by professors, battling bugs in her parents' garden, playing acoustic guitar, or knitting the lone sock she's been working on since last Thanksgiving. While a career in journalism remains somewhat undesirable to her, Evangeline is grateful for the opportunity to improve her writing skills through involvement on The Bells staff. Her dream career would be that of a starving artist.

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