Comparing flashbulb memories of September 11 and the death of Princess Diana : effects of time delays and nationality
This study examines flashbulb memories of a salient recent and a distant public event to assess patterns of forgetting in the formal characteristics of these memories. Memories of a recent event (September 11) were compared to memories of a distant event (the death of Princess Diana) in several samples of British and one sample of Italian participants. In British participants, the 51-month old memories of the death of Princess Diana were as detailed and specific as their memories of a 3-month old event, September 11. Moreover, their memories of Princess Diana were not different from memories of September 11 collected immediately or very soon after September 11 in two other groups of British participants. Results suggest that flashbulb memories of a distant public event can be as detailed, specific and vivid as memories of a very recent event. For Italian participants, however, flashbulb memory scores for September 11 were reliably higher than for the death of Princess Diana. There was also a small albeit reliable loss of specificity in British participants' memories of September 11 over the subsequent three months.