Flashbulb memories are aptly named because it's as if the mind takes a richly detailed picture of circumstances in which news was learned. According to Willingham, flashbulb memories are characterized by accuracy, completeness, and an immunity to being forgotten. Research suggests a unique mental process accounts for this type of memory in that they occur only during times of extreme emotional duress or shock. According to Kihlstrom (n.d.), the general conclusion of studies on this type of memory is that flashbulb memories do not contain more accurate representations of the event in question. The unique quality of these memories is not related to emotional arousal, but the more mundane effect of going over the experience with others and in one's own mind repeatedly (Kihlstrom, n.d.). According to Willingham, people tend to think about flashbulb memories differently. Whereas people acknowledge the loss of accuracy of daily memories, they believe that they maintain the accuracy of flashbulb memories, and its accuracy neither decreases over time nor does the emotional effects associated with the memory of the event (Willingham, 2007).
Kihlstrom (n.d.) suggests that flashbulb memories may serve as a significant function in the human personality, and the sharing of these memories may serve as a socially bonding activity, and a reference point in one's personal history. Neisser and Hyman (2000) suggests "we remember the details of a flashbulb occasion because those details are the links between our own histories and history" (p. 73).
Kihlstrom, J. F. (n.d.). Flashbulb Memories. Socrates.berkeley.edu. Retrieved December 01, 2010, from http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/flashbulb.htm
Neisser, U., & Hyman, I. E. (2000). Memory observed: remembering in natural contexts. New York, NY: Worth.
Willingham, D. (2007). Cognition: The Thinking Animal, third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.