Testimony and 9/11:

Memory change over time

October 24, 2013 • 10AM-1PM

918 International Affairs Building, Columbia University

  • William Hirst, Psychology, The New School
  • Elizabeth Phelps, Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, New York University
  • Discussant: Clifford Chanin, National September 11 Memorial and Museum
  • Discussant: Bradley Evans, International Studies, University of Bristol

How does a traumatic, public event affect the accuracy of our memories?

Immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Memory Consortium, led by psychologists William Hirst and Elizabeth Phelps, launched a national survey project to assess the impact of the terrorist attacks on individual memory. Nearly 1,500 respondents voluntarily returned questionnaires about their memories and experience of 9/11 within one week of the event to capture flashbulb memories. Follow-up surveys were conducted at one year, three years and ten years.

Part of the Politics of Memory in Global Context series, this event featured a presentation of the 9/11 National Memory Survey by Hirst and Phelps, and was followed by a response from Clifford Chanin from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and from Bradley Evans, whose Histories of Violence project offers a critical response to the anniversary of 9/11.

Read Hirst and Phelps et al.: Long-term memory for the terrorist attack of September 11: Flashbulb memories, event memories, and the factors that influence their retention (2010)

Learn more about the Politics of Memory in Global Context.