Cognitive Daily

September 11 and memory

It’s no surprise that on the fifth anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, most newspapers and many blogs are offering reflections and analysis of what happened. This morning I asked my kids, who were in the third and fourth grade on the day of the attacks, if they remembered what happened that day. Of course they did — the bigger question is what of the world before September 11 they remembered. Nearly everyone has a story to tell about September 11, 2001.

It seems almost human nature to reflect on our memories of shocking events such as September 11. In fact many psychological studies have used the event to study the nature of memory itself. Greta’s students often ask her if it’s ethical to conduct such research. She always responds that it would be a greater tragedy not to try to understand such an event’s impact on the human mind.

We’ve discussed several such studies here on Cognitive Daily. In case you missed any of them, I’ve linked them below the fold.

Is memory better for shocking events?

An experimental test of flashbulb memory

Another perspective on flashbulb memory

What does it take to empathize with someone you hate?

Best way to handle crises like 9/11: A good sense of humor?


  1. #1 Joe Shelby
    September 11, 2006

    On “flashbulb memories”, one of the other things I’ve felt (but of course, am not in the field to directly study) is that after a time we remember not the memory itself but the remembering of the memory as its recounted. What we choose to tell ends up memorized for later retellings (eventually the story, like an actor’s script, becomes finalized) and other details end up not remembered so much as reconstructed to plausibly fit the story being told.

  2. #2 marcia
    September 11, 2006

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