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Discuss the Role of One Theory of Emotion on a Cognitive Process

Discuss the Role of One Theory of Emotion on a Cognitive Process

Discuss the role of one theory of emotion on a cognitive process (22 marks) * The role of one theory of emotion is the flashbulb theory, which was suggested by Brown and Kulik (1977). A flashbulb memory is a type of long-term memory. It is an extremely clear, detailed and vivid memory of a highly emotional, sometimes personal event.

Brown and Kulik (1977) formed the special-mechanism hypothesis, which argues for the existence of a special biological memory mechanism that, when triggered by an event exceeding criterial levels of surprise and consequentiality, creates a permanent record of the contents of awareness for the period immediately surrounding the shocking experience. The hypothesis of a special flashbulb-memory mechanism holds that flashbulb memories have special characteristics that are different from those produced by “ordinary” memory mechanisms.

It is believed that the representations created by the special mechanism are detailed, accurate, vivid, and resistant to forgetting. * * Brown and Kulik suggested that we have a special neural mechanism located inside our brains which help to trigger the emotional arousal when a shocking or unexpected event occurs. The emotional stimulus first goes thorough the sensory thalamus and then to the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe. The perception of the potential stressor enables the brain to send signals to the body so that it can prepare for action.

At the same time, the thalamus sends the information via the indirect pathway to the cortex and hippocampus for closer inspection. This results in a more detailed evaluation of the stimulus – also known as appraisal – and the outcome of this is sent to the amygdala. It plays a huge role in emotional memories as it releases hormones such as adrenaline which helps us remember the event better. For example, when someone close to us has died, our physiological arousal, also known as the fight-or-flight response, gives us a reaction in the stressful event e. . tears. * * Brown and Kulik conducted a study with the aim to investigate whether dramatic or personally significant events can cause “flashbulb” memories and if emotional events are remembered better than less emotional events. They used a retrospective questionnaire that assessed the memories of 80 US participants for the circumstances in which they first learnt about important public events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy or Robert Kennedy.

They found that people said that they had very clear memories about what they were doing, where they were, how they were informed, how others reacted and how they reacted themselves when it happened. The study also showed the flashbulb memory was more likely for unexpected and personally relevant shocking events. Brown and Kulik concluded that dramatic events can cause a physiological imprinting of a memory of the event. Although they concluded this, it could also be that dramatic events are rehearsed more than usual, which is why they are made as more vivid memories and durable, rather than an “imprinting” process causing flashbulb memory. * Another study on the flashbulb theory was conducted by Cohen et al (1994) who aimed to experiment the effects of a timespan on the flashbulb memory. In this study of age differences in flashbulb memory, groups of young and older adults were asked to recall as many details as possible about how they learned of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation in 1991. They were then tested within 14 days after the event and again 11 months later. 90% of young adults and 42% of older adults met the criteria for a true flashbulb memory.

There was little or no decline in the accuracy of their recall of what happened. This case study supports the theory of flashbulb memories being resilient to decay and distortion. The accuracy of the incident remained intact as long as the recollection kept the conditions of a flashbulb memory between the two dates in which they were asked about the incident. As well as that most of the young adult participants were able to maintain the event of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as a flashbulb memory over 11 months. A considerable amount of older adults could still remember the event.

However, this study might not be accurate in itself because of the time span in which they were asked to recall in. An 11 month gap might not have such a big significance to memory loss or distortion, and they should therefore increase the time gap before interviewing them again. * * However, although the flashbulb memories tend to be very clear, they may not be entirely accurate as they can deteriorate over time, just like everyday memories, or it can be skewed by the intense emotions the person was feeling at the time the memory was created.

Although the person may believe that the memory they had was very accurate, they may be wrong. Neisser (1982) argued that these memories are often inaccurated or fabricated. He investigated people’s memory accuracy of an incident that happened on the 28 January 1986, where seven astronauts abroad the Space Shuttle Challenger were killed in a tragic accident. He investigated those that watched the shuttle launch in real life and 106 of these people were asked to fill out a questionnaire 24 hours after the accident, and again two years later.

They were asked to fill out questions regarding what they were doing, who they were with, and their reaction, and details of the disaster etc. The participants were very confident that their memories were correct, but the researchers found that 40 per cent of these memories were incorrect memories and were fabricated. It was assumed that post-event information could have influenced the inaccuracy of the memory. These results suggest that flashbulb memory is not always reliable and memories could be influenced by post-event information. * There are two sides of the argument of whether flashbulb memory does exist. I think that further research is needed to generate for different situation triggers different types of people’s emotions. Furthermore, human being’s mind and memory are too complex to be a certain of a single cause-and-effect relationship. The studies taken to study flashbulb memory largely consist of interviews and surveys, and this can cause demand characteristics, causing further inaccuracy of results. *