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Shared Flashbulb Memories Lead to Identity Fusion: Recalling the Defeat in the Brexit Referendum Produces Strong Psychological Bonds Among Remain Supporters

Muzzulini, B; van Mulukom, V; Kapitany, R; Whitehouse, H


B Muzzulini

V van Mulukom

R Kapitany

H Whitehouse


Identity fusion—a visceral feeling of oneness with a group—is thought to result from the sharing of emotional, often dysphoric, experiences. In this pre-registered longitudinal study, we address the impact of flashbulb memories of learning about the outcome of the Brexit referendum on both identity fusion and social identification. As predicted, the visceral quality of people’s flashbulb memories had a transformative effect on personal identity via processes of personal reflection and this, in turn, led to identity fusion via perceived sharedness with the group. Sharing personally transformative memories in this way did not lead to social identification, suggesting that perceived sharedness is key to identity fusion but not to social identification. Understanding how emotional public events impact personal identities and how they produce peculiar forms of group alignment have important implications for explaining and managing societal threats such as polarization and forms of political and religious extremism. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2021
Publication Date Sep 1, 2022
Journal Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Print ISSN 2211-3681
Publisher Elsevier
Pages 374 - 383
Publisher URL