How some historical events shape our memory

April 24th, 2009 - 1:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 24 (ANI): We live in history. That’s what psychologists from University of Alberta believe, who have found that some of the historical public events play a crucial role in shaping our memory.

The experiment included participants from ten cities around the world and was conducted in two parts.

At first, the participants were shown a list of words and had to write down personal memories associated with those words (e.g., when they learned to ride a bike or when they were by a river).

In the second part, they thought aloud as they remembered when those personal events occurred. The participants were tape-recorded during this part of the experiment and the researchers analyzed the recordings to see how often public events were mentioned.

The results showed that “historically-defined autobiographical periods” (H-DAPs; e.g., “during the war”) do exist, although H-DAP formation depends on the intensity, duration, and novelty of the public event, as well as how close it is to a population.

The researchers found that Bosnians often referred to the civil war and Izmit Turks frequently mentioned the devastating earthquake, which struck Turkey in 1999.

Participants from Canada and Denmark, relatively conflict-free countries, almost never mentioned public events when describing their memories.

However, the Israeli participants did not use H-DAP references to date their memories.

The researchers said “this lack of H-DAPs reflects the chronic nature of the conflict that afflicts the region.”

“In Israel, group conflict is a fact of life, and psychological, social, and physical responses to this fact are part of the daily routine.”

The authors speculate that the 9/11 references were missing from the US samples because the attacks had, at most, a limited effect on the lives of most American.

These findings suggest that public events can be categorized as “emotionally charged” (e.g., the September 11 attacks), which affect people’s emotions, attitudes, and beliefs or “epoch-defining” (e.g., the Siege of Sarajevo), which change the way people live.

The study indicates personal memory and history become entwined, leading to the formation of H-DAPs and causing us to “live-in-history.” (ANI)

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