Have you ever wondered what happens in your brain after you find yourself in a novel (new or unexpected?) situation? Perhaps, you would be curious why you can remember some aspects of the situation but other details not so much. It might be that you remember some parts perfectly fine while others are very hard or impossible to recall. The cognitive mechanism that might underlie your so-called narrative memory is named event segmentation.
The Event segmentation theory assumes that whenever humans hear, see, smell, or perceive something in other ways, this information taken together will be stored in the brain as a model. These models can be imagined as replicas of the things that happen in front of you. But why does the brain create these models?
According to the theory, humans need them to be able to predict what will happen in situations they find themselves in. These cognitive replicas function similarly to a guide that will give you information on what might potentially happen if you find yourself in a situation that is similar to the replica, a Situation you have encountered before. However, novel (new) situations are largely unpredictable, and you often perceive something that you did not expect. When this occurs, the event models will be updated with the newly acquired information of the unexpected event. The point where such an unexpected event has a large influence on the whole situation itself, for example when you are watching a movie and the scenery or the characters change, can be called an event boundary. These boundaries help us to distinguish occurrences that are more or less important for the way an event further progresses. Because these boundaries are so crucial to interpreting what happens in the world in front of us, they are usually also the details that stuck out to us the most when we reminisce about something in the past.
Our research group at Maastricht University is intrigued by the dynamics of event segmentation and wants to further build upon this foundation. Thus, we are preparing to research how the availability of semantic information affects event segmentation.