Core Memories

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Cezza Cardaropoli & Kytiana Thompson, Reporters

Have you ever found yourself saying that you remember a moment from your life “as if it were yesterday”? A feeling so clear that if asked, you could describe it perfectly, like it just happened? If you said yes, you might be able to describe this thought as one of your flashbulb memories. A flashbulb memory is an emotional moment that your brain turns into a very vivid memory. Psychologists refer to the authenticity of these as “flashbulbs” as if the event was lit up by a light bulb that had just been sparked in one’s mind. The light stays bright, symbolizing the thought staying consistent. The contrast to this is a short-term memory, where you don’t remember as many details or forget what happened shortly after. They act as a passing recollection rather than a long-standing, impactful remembrance, such as the flashbulb.

Flashbulb memories, however vivid, are applicable to false details. There have been studies done to show how they can be faulty and perceived as more extreme than regular, ordinary memories. In reality, both forms of memories can be damaged, especially when trying to recall an event from years past. As we mature, we may end up forgetting, replacing, or adding our own seemingly small details that end up tweaking the entire encoding process that enables memories to be stored. This process consists of three steps: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The brain processes the event, takes time to remember the correct order of events (usually occurs as we sleep), and hopefully recalls it for later recollection. While some memories can be encoded improperly and eventually be forgotten, the ones that are important to us or traumatic tend to stick. This caused the vivid representation of these memories in our brain to be popularized through Pixar’s 2015 animated film Inside Out and now are better known as ‘core memories’.

Since they carry such heavy emotional and personal connections to our lives, people typically say that their flashbulb memories are some of the best, or worst, days of their lives. With that being said, we tend to really remember these days better, speaking in the long-term sense. But is this really the case? We asked some of the students and staff here at West Springfield High School how they would classify their ‘core memories’: as one of their best days, one of their worst days, or neither.

Pie chart representing the percent of best or worst memories or neither according to students who were interviewed.

Students shared with us in great detail about their ‘core memories’. One 10th grader, Lamara Taksilova, shared with us one of her best memories saying, “ It was the absolute best feeling in the world, and had me grinning out of joy.” In this memory, she described a trip she took to a beach in Florida. She gave great detail about the beauty she experienced on her day at the beach. She said, “ I was surrounded by peace and tranquility, watching the sun go down as the colors of the sky grew more intense.” On the total opposite side of things, some students shared moments that make their ‘top 20 worst memories list’. Fellow sophomore Leonardo Vo recalled a ‘core memory’ of when his goldfish died saying, “my grandmother walked into the room and told me the goldfish is dead now.” Vo described a step by step of how the situation went, even being able to remember little details about the events that took place. He said, “so I went to use bleach to clean the bowl because I always saw my grandmother clean stuff with it so I used it, too. After around 10 minutes, I was done and my fish was gone out of the spot I left it.” He recalled being told that his fish had died and all the emotions that come with that, most vividly being upset. 

Staying parallel to other studies, the majority of people that were interviewed said that their memories were what they would describe as one of their best moments. Some have even been with people since childhood, sticking with them their whole lives, going through it all. However imperfect, these ‘core memories’ will always be held close to our hearts, ready to share to the next person.