We examined and compared the predictors of autobiographical memory (AM) consistency and event memory accuracy across two publicly documented yet disparate public events: the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on January 20th 2009, and the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549, off the coast of Manhattan, on January 15th 2009. We tracked autobiographical and event memories for both events, with assessments taking place within 21/2 weeks of both events (Survey 1), and again between 31/2 and 4 months after both events (Survey 2). In a series of stepwise regressions we found that the psychological variables of recalled emotional intensity and personal importance/centrality predicted AM consistency and event memory accuracy for the inauguration. Conversely, the rehearsal variables of covert rehearsal and media attention predicted, respectively, AM consistency and event memory accuracy for the plane landing. We conclude from these findings that different factors may underlie autobiographical and event memory for personally and culturally significant events (e.g., the inauguration), relative to noteworthy, yet less culturally significant, events (e.g., the plane landing).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Autobiographical memory
- Barack Obama
- Event memory
- Memory practices
- US Airways Flight 1549