An especially intriguing phenomenon may also shed light on the power of distinctiveness. A flashbulb memory is a vivid recollection of some autobiographical event that carries with it strong emotional reaction. Depending on your age, you might be able to recall clearly exactly what you were doing, seeing, hearing, and feeling on receiving the news that President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, that an attempt was made on the life of President Reagan in 1981, that the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, or that the World Trade Center was destroyed by a terrorist attack in 2001. As Pillemer noted, “images of only a tiny subset of specific episodes—death of a loved one, landing a first job, getting married, hearing about public tragedies—persist over a lifetime, with little subjectively experienced loss of clarity” . One explanation for why flashbulb memories are so well recalled is that they are highly distinctive events in long-term memory.
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