Event Segmentation Improves Event Memory up to One Month Later

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Abstract

When people observe everyday activity, they spontaneously parse it into discrete meaningful events. Individuals who segment activity in a more normative fashion show better subsequent memory for the events. If segmenting events effectively leads to better memory, does asking people to attend to segmentation improve subsequent memory? To answer this question, participants viewed movies of naturalistic activity with instructions to remember the activity for a later test, and in some conditions additionally pressed a button to segment the movies into meaningful events or performed a control condition that required button-pressing but not attending to segmentation. In 5 experiments, memory for the movies was assessed at intervals ranging from immediately following viewing to 1 month later. Performing the event segmentation task led to superior memory at delays ranging from 10 min to 1 month. Further, individual differences in segmentation ability predicted individual differences in memory performance for up to a month following encoding. This study provides the first evidence that manipulating event segmentation affects memory over long delays and that individual differences in event segmentation are related to differences in memory over long delays. These effects suggest that attending to how an activity breaks down into meaningful events contributes to memory formation. Instructing people to more effectively segment events may serve as a potential intervention to alleviate everyday memory complaints in aging and clinical populations.

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