Can Flashbulb Memory Characteristics Predict Prototypicality in Social Representations? A Study on a Turkish Sample’s Recollections of the 2016 Coup Attempt

Keywords: flashbulb memory, collective memory, social representations, prototypical analysis


In contrast to the mainstream assumption that flashbulb memories (FBM) of social events should be evaluated as autobiographical memories, some researchers have recently suggested that they may also have various social functions. This study aimed to investigate the July 15th, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey as an example of negative FBM and a social representation (SR) by using both quantitative and qualitative data. Participants (N = 343) responded to an online survey that included questions measuring the quality of their memories and the hierarchical evocations of the coup attempt. It was found that memories of this event had the basic characteristics of FBM. Strong and weak FBM groups differed from each other on phenomenological aspects of rehearsal (social sharing and rumination) and vividness (visual relieving). Findings also showed that, compared to the weak FBM group, participants who were in the strong FBM group reported more evocations from the central core of the general social representation, whereas they did not differ in terms of the evocations from the periphery and the total social representation. Regression analyses showed that the variance in the number of evocations from the central core of the social representation was predicted by the phenomenological aspect of surprise and emotional valence. For the total number of evocations, however, surprise was the only predictor among the phenomenological aspects. Interestingly, age was not a significant predictor of the quality of the FBM, whereas it predicted significant variance in the number of evocations from the central core and the total evocations.

Author Biographies

Merve Çavuşoğlu, Bursa Uludag University

MERVE ÇAVUŞOĞLU has recently received her Ph.D. from the Social Psychology program of Bursa Uludag University, Turkey and is currently working as a research assistant in the Psychology Department of the same university. Her research interests are at the interface between memory and intergroup processes. This article includes a part of her doctoral dissertation supervised by the third author.


Gamze Özdemir, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey

GAMZE ÖZDEMİR is a final-year Ph.D. candidate in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Bursa Uludag University, Turkey. Also, she is a research assistant in the Psychology Department of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey. In her doctoral dissertation, she has examined the Imposter Phenomenon through representations of success and failure under the supervision of the third author. Her research interests are intergroup relations, implicit prejudices, and social representations.


M. Ersin Kuşdil, Bursa Uludag University

M. ERSİN KUŞDİL has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Sussex University and works as a professor in the Department of Psychology at Bursa Uludag University, Turkey. His research interests include the effects of human values, social axioms, and implicit attitudes in intergroup relations. Also, he has recently focused on the possible links between mainstream social cognition approaches and social representations theory.


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