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Abstract

Similarities and differences between factual memories (FTM) and flashbulb memories (FBM) of the assassination of Israel's Prime Minister, Itzhak Rabin, were explored. About two weeks after the assassination 61 Israeli students filled out a questionnaire which focused on the event and the circumstances in which they had first learned about it. About 11 months later they filled out again the same questionnaire, and self-assessed their emotional and cognitive reactions to the assassination, as well as specific properties of their memory; such as confidence in its accuracy, and the amounts of rehearsals and visual representations. Comparative analysis of the participants' responses on the two questionnaires uncovered decrements of about 25% in FTM accuracy, and about 36% in FBM consistency. Rehearsals and visual representations were more common in FTM than in FBM, but the levels of confidence in memory accuracy were similar for both. FTM which were presumably based on information provided by television broadcasts, appeared to have episodic properties. The data seem to support the hypothesis that FTM and FBM of traumatic public events are encoded together; perhaps by the same memory mechanism. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.