A Qualitative Examination of the Failed July 15th Coup in Turkey as an Example of Flashbulb Memories

Çavuşoğlu M., Kuşdil M. E.

32nd International Congress of Psychology, Praha, Czech Republic, 18 - 23 July 2021

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Praha
  • Country: Czech Republic
  • Bursa Uludag University Affiliated: Yes


Although it has long been assumed that flashbulb memories serve some basic psychological functions, some researchers have recently suggested that they may also have various social functions. They have asserted that events (positive or negative) that affect a society as a whole might trigger the social identities of individuals and shape their collective memories. For researchers who prefer an individualistic approach, however, even flashbulb memories of social events should be evaluated as autobiographical memories. The present study aimed to investigate the failed July 15th coup in Turkey in 2016 as an example of negative flashbulb memories by using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Three hundred and fifty-one participants responded to an online survey that included questions measuring the quality of their memories of the failed coup as flashbulb memories. Participants also wrote down seven attributes that came to their minds when they remembered the time that this event took place and sorted them in relation to their relative importance. By using the participants’ ratings to the quality scales, the indexes of quality for different aspects of flashbulb memories (vividness, consequentiality etc.) were calculated. Results showed that, although they were somewhat heterogeneous, participants’ memories of this event had the basic characteristics that would be necessary to consider them as flashbulb memories in general. Next, a qualitative analysis was realized by using IRaMuTeQ 0.7 to examine the social representational nature of participants’ memories of the failed coup. Results of the prototype and similarity analyses of attributes showed that memories of this event bear the basic structure of a social representation by exhibiting some clear sets of core and peripheral elements. Findings will be discussed in relation to the relevance of Moscovici’s social representation theory to the arguments on considering flashbulb memories as one of the basic sources of collective memories.

Key words: Flashbulb memory, social representation theory, qualitative analyses