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Discusses research on the degradation of memory over a short period
of time. Concept of memory as a constructive process; Results of a survey
conducted by Kathy Pezdek, psychology professor at Claremont Graduate
University in California after the September 11, 2001 terrorists


On September 11, 2021, will you remember where you were 20 years
earlier or recall that it was a Tuesday? Millions of Americans remember
that morning as a "flashbulb memory," the vivid and total recall of a
stressful, emotional and often historic event. But psychologists are
increasingly certain that such memories, first defined in the 1970s, do,
in fact, degrade over a short period of time. September 11 may provide
the data to conclusively dismiss flashbulb memory, just as the concept
infiltrates public consciousness.

Dozens of researchers independently initiated flashbulb studies
within days of the attack, posing the "Where were you?" question that
everyone was asking one another already. Their subjects will be
reassessed between nine months and three years hence, depending on the

Kathy Pezdek, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Claremont
Graduate University in California, didn't have to wait for a follow-up
survey to detect significant mnemonic fissures in her subjects. Pezdek
surveyed 690 people seven weeks after September 11. Their average
estimation of elapsed time between the first plane crash and the collapse
of both towers was 62 minutes, when, in fact, the disaster took almost
two hours to unfold. New Yorkers were the most accurate respondents;
nonetheless, three-fourths recalled seeing the first plane hit the tower
in video footage aired September 11th. This footage was not shown until
the next day.

"Already, memory telescopes in time" says Pezdek. "This was the
most consequential event in many people's lifetime. That they're
forgetting just seven weeks later shows that memory is a constructive
process. We remember the construction, not the events that go into the
construction." Pezdek will present her findings at the Tsukuba
International Conference on Memory in March and will edit a section
devoted to 9/11 studies in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Not all 9/11 research began after the attacks. While the National
Institute of Mental Health "started hearing from investigators on the
afternoon of the 11th" according to head of traumatic research Farris
Tuma, many longitudinal studies were already in place. Perhaps the oddest
is the Global Consciousness Project, an attempt to gauge unified patterns
when humanity focuses on a single event. Machines in 38 cities perform
digital "coin tosses" at the rate of 200 per second. The results are
usually 50:50, but last September the data skewed markedly in one
direction. Statistical anomalies first appeared three hours before the
attacks, peeked at 9:10 a.m. EST and continued for three days. The odds
of this occurring are less than one in 1,000, according to Roger Nelson,
director of the Princeton, New Jersey--based project, which is not
affiliated with Princeton University.

Nelson hesitates to attribute these results to a unified
consciousness, though the data is by far the greatest deviation from the
norm in the project's three-year history.

71 percentage of Americans who felt depressed in the week after

12 percentage increase in nationwide admissions to substance abuse
treatment centers

813 percentage increase in CNN viewers for week of September 11,

21 percentage decrease in number of Americans fearing terrorist
attacks, from Oct. to Dec. 2001

People who watched more than 12 hours of television per day were
3.6 times more likely to develop PTSD after 9/11 than people who watched
less than four hours.