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Poster B146

'Memento' Memory: Effects of Non-Linear Narrative Structures on Memory

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

James Antony1 (, Angelo Lozano1, Pahul Dhoat1, Kelly Bennion1; 1Cal Poly, SLO

Free recall often shows temporal contiguity, or clustering of information presented nearby in time at encoding. However, this contiguity also appears flexible - it can be reduced by other forms of structure like semantic relationships among stimuli or exacerbated by linear, causal narratives. Here, we asked how tensions between temporal and causal structure affects recall by having subjects watch a narrative with non-linear causal structure between events (the movie, Memento, in which one part of the storyline is presented in reverse). Three groups of subjects were asked to recall the movie in different ways: (1) freely, (2) in the narrative order (how it was presented), or (3) in chronological order. Subjects leaned on both narrative and chronological strategies to guide their recall – with a modest bias towards the strategy we instructed them to use. However, chronological order was the dominant organizing characteristic in all groups. Intriguingly, whereas temporal contiguity in recall typically shows a forward bias in time, here there was a backward bias, aligning with how the dominant Memento storyline progressed in reverse. Additionally, we separately collected ratings of causal connections between each pair of scenes, and we found that causal network properties like betweenness centrality and in-bound connections predicted scene memorability. Overall, we replicated findings that non-temporal forms of structure affect recall, reducing the strength and even reversing the direction of contiguity effects from standard laboratory experiments and showing that time is a weak form of structure when others are salient.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024