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Poster C16

Narrative coherence bends the arrow of time when recalling naturalistic events

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Angelique Delarazan1 (, Jeffrey Zacks1, Elena Bosak1, Zachariah Reagh1; 1Washington University in St. Louis

Temporal and contextual associations organize the recall of past experiences, such that elements can be linked based on temporal proximity or semantic relatedness. However, our understanding of these phenomena mostly stems from standard memory paradigms that focus on isolated elements, such as word lists. In contrast, real-life experiences consist of dynamic events with complex, meaningful connections. Ongoing experiences are often remembered as discrete events, but sometimes come together as part of a larger narrative. Recent studies show that temporally distant events can be linked together and are better remembered if the events could be integrated into a broader, coherent narrative. Although prior work demonstrates our ability to link naturalistic events in memory, it is unknown how we structure and organize these memories during free recall. Here, we investigate how temporally-distant events of varying levels of narrative coherence influence the organization of recalled experiences. Participants learned and subsequently recalled events from picture book-style stories that either formed one coherent narrative, or two separate, unrelated narratives embedded in an overarching, causally related story. We found an overall recall benefit associated with recalling events in chronological order. We also found that narratively coherent events were more likely to be recalled, but that this was associated with a deviation from temporally-organized recall. These results extend the importance of temporal organization in recall to complex naturalistic events, and further suggest a natural proclivity for leveraging the meaning of events to construct memories from everyday experiences.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024