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Memories for Life: War sparked enduring recollections

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1:23am, May 18, 2005

World War II ended 60 years ago, but memories of that conflagration show surprising staying power. Danes who lived through the Nazi occupation, which began in 1940, and the liberation in 1945 remember information associated with those two events with considerable accuracy, a new study finds.

Vivid recollections of one's surroundings and other personal experiences at the time of momentous, surprising events have been dubbed flashbulb memories. Earlier studies indicated that the accuracy of this type of recall declines substantially for 3 years after such events take place. That led some researchers to posit that after a decade or more, such memories become totally untrustworthy.

However, a healthy proportion of flashbulb memories related to World War II have stayed intact for more than half a century in Danes, say Dorthe Berntsen and Dorthe K. Thomsen, psychologists at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

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