Young adults’ autobiographical memories of frightening news stories seen during childhood. Communication Research, 39, 738 – 756.
This study explores long-term memories for childhood exposure to disturbing televised news reports in order to uncover possible mechanisms through which children experience the emotion of fear. In an online survey, 328 undergraduates at a Midwestern university were questioned about their long-term memories for a disturbing news report seen during childhood. Results reveal that 50% of participants could remember a specific news event that frightened them during childhood, a majority of which were seen accidentally. Participants were most likely to remember news stories about terrorist attacks, murders, and kidnappings. They were more frightened when news events were rated as personally relevant, when they continued to think about the news event after it had ended, and when the news events elicited feelings of shock and surprise.