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The Fallibility of 9/11 Memories

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How confident are you in your memories? After a dramatic, emotionally charged event such as the 9/11 terrorist attack, people describe their memories of the event as being “etched” or “burned” into their minds. And their confidence that such recollections are completely accurate is abnormally high compared with ordinary memories. Does this notion of a “flashbulb memory” hold up against the data? Cognitive neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps details a study conducted on September 12, 2001 regarding the memories surrounding this tragic event, as well as brain imaging experiments her lab has conducted. The results of which are counterintuitive and sometimes difficult to accept.
More from this ongoing series: The Unbearable Lightness of Memory


This program is a part of The Big, the Small, and the Complex, a Series made possible with the support of The Kavli Prize.

Image courtesy of Paul Keller; Recorded June 2011; Posted August 2011

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