Selective omission

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Choc images help to fight omissions

The selective omission is a memory bias. In collective memory it's a bias where a group (state, media, public opinion) work to forget some traumatic memories.

This expressions is often used for post-war rewriting of history in a more coherent way according to local stereotypes and moral values.[1] That's denying war atrocities.

The viewer often forget their own side's atrocities or suggest they were done by the opposite side, while the other side's atrocities are freely exposed. On the winning side, it's closely related to the concept of fair quest and clean war, which claim to kill only warriors in fights.

When remembering things from ones past it is easier to remember events that are tied to a major life changing event.

The research done by Norman Brown, Peter Lee, and others, tested the hypothesis that memory is organized based on life changing events by having participants recall memories with historically defined autobiographical periods (H-DAPs; i.e. “during the war,” “after the earthquake.”)

Surprisingly the results found that participants that actually lived in war zones, or a natural disaster such as a tsunami typically would refer to their H-DAP’s to date personal events, while New Yorkers almost never mentioned the attacks of 9/11. The researchers believed this occurrence was happening, because even though we remember the attacks of 9/11, they had very little direct effect on our everyday lives.

The researchers realize that further research is needed to further investigate this phenomenon but at least now a method has been put in place for future researchers. We use historical events to date memories in our minds, however what events we use, and how we choose to use them should be studied further.


  1. Penebaker 1997 p79-81


  • Pennebaker, James W.; Páez, Darío; Rimé, Bernard (1997). Collective memory of political events: social psychological perspectives. Routledge. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-8058-2182-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Brown, N., Lee, P., Krslak, M., Conrad, F., Hansen, T., Havelka, J., and Reddon, R., (2009). Living in History: How War, Terrorism, and Natural Disaster Affect the Organization of Autobiographical Memory. Psychological Science. 20: 399-405. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02307.x

See also