Why have some researchers found reports of flashbulb memories to be stable, while others have observed inconsistencies? Paradoxically, it appears that relatively long delays between event and initial documentation have produced greater consistency of participants' reports. To investigate this directly, we collected the initial documentation of hearing about O.J. Simpson's acquittal either five hours or one week after the acquittal was read. Observed consistency of memories varied as a function of documentation time; following an eight-week retention, the delayed reports were more consistent. The delayed group also reported fewer propositions in their initial documentation. We proposed a consolidation model to explain these results: during the days immediately following a newsworthy event, the narrative structure of these memories changes in that some details are forgotten. After this consolidation period, the memories may solidify. Thus, it may have been easier for the delayed group to provide consistent memories at the two intervals.
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Winningham, R. G., Hyman, I. E., & Dinnel, D. L. (2000, July 1). Flashbulb memories? The effects of when the initial memory report was obtained. Memory, 8(4), 209-216. doi:10.1080/096582100406775