The Ebb and Flow of Experience Determines the Temporal Structure of Memory

Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2017 Oct;17:186-193. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.08.013. Epub 2017 Oct 3.


Everyday life consists of a continuous stream of information, yet somehow we remember the past as distinct episodic events. Prominent models posit that event segmentation is driven by erroneous predictions about how current experiences are unfolding. Yet this perspective fails to explain how memories become integrated or separated in the absence of prior knowledge. Here, we propose that contextual stability dictates the temporal organization of events in episodic memory. To support this view, we summarize new findings showing that neural measures of event organization index how ongoing changes in external contextual cues and internal representations of time influence different forms of episodic memory.