How certain historical events shape our memory – sciencedaily


If you live in New Orleans, how would you describe the personal events that occurred shortly before August 2005? Would you describe them as “back in July 2005” or would you describe them as “just before Hurricane Katrina”? If you live in Oregon, would you be referring to Hurricane Katrina?

A team of researchers, led by psychologist Norman R. Brown of the University of Alberta, studied how public events (eg, war, natural disaster, terrorism) shape our personal memories.

The experiment was conducted in two parts and included participants from ten cities around the world. First, participants were given a list of words and had to write down personal memories associated with those words (for example, when they learned to ride a bicycle or when they were by a river). Then they thought out loud as they remembered when these personal events happened. Participants were recorded during this part of the experiment, and the researchers analyzed the recordings to see how often public events were mentioned.

The results, reported in Psychological Sciences, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, show that “historically defined autobiographical periods” (H-DAP; for example, “during the war”) exist, although H-DAP training is dependent on intensity, duration and novelty of the public event, as well as its proximity to a population.

Analysis of the recordings reveals that two groups frequently used H-DAPs to date personal events: Bosnians often referred to the civil war and Turks in Izmit frequently mentioned the devastating earthquake that struck the Turkey in 1999. In contrast, participants from Canada and Denmark, relatively conflict-free countries, hardly ever mentioned public events when describing their memories.

Surprisingly, the Israeli participants did not use the H-DAP references to date their memories. The researchers note that “this lack of H-DAP reflects the chronic nature of the conflict plaguing the region.” They assume that “in Israel, group conflict is a fact of life, and psychological, social and physical responses to this fact are part of the daily routine.”

H-DAPs were also absent from the (post-9/11) protocols collected in New York and elsewhere in the United States. effect on the lives of most Americans – it is true that things changed after 9/11, it is not true that “9/11 changed everything”.

These results suggest that public events can be classified as “emotionally charged” (e.g., how people live. The results of this study indicate that it is public events that define the era – those that have personal significance. , and not necessarily of historical significance – which cause personal memory and history to intertwine, leading to the formation of H-DAP and making us “live – in history.”

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Materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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Patrick F. Williams

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