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Implicit in most flashbulb memory research are three assumptions: that major news events will be important for almost everyone in the chosen sample, that people's ratings of memory quality are reliable and that a detailed recollection of personal circumstances implies a vivid memory. Using two general population surveys of Great Britain (total N = 3160), we examine each of these assumptions for two events that have recently been used in flashbulb memory studies: Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister and the Hillsborough football disaster. The results emphasize the importance of careful sampling of both participants and events, and question whether flashbulb memories are as vivid as originally hypothesized. This type of research is rare within the flashbulb memory literature on account of the large sample sizes and the use of samples representative of the general population. This allows us to return to Brown & Kulik's (1977) original emphasis on group differences and re-evaluate their findings.