Switching task sets creates event boundaries in memory.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

People segregate continuously unfolding experiences into discrete events in memory. This process, known as event segmentation, results in better memory for the temporal order of experiences within an event and expands subjective temporal distance for items encoded across event boundaries. Previous research has suggested that the creation of event boundaries is driven by (typically unpredicted) changes in external stimulation, though many prior studies have confounded a change in bottom-up input with a concurrent change in task goal. This raises the question of whether event segmentation can be triggered by the endogenous cognitive control processes involved in switching task sets, independent of changes in bottom-up stimulation. We investigated this question by embedding task set changes during encoding of a series of trial-unique images, and comparing subsequent temporal order and distance memory for item pairs encoded across a change in task set with item pairs encoded within the same task set. Across five experiments, we demonstrate that both cued and voluntary task set changes are sufficient to create event boundaries, while ruling out potential confounding effects of shifts in stimulus set, response set, task cues, and task difficulty. Thus, internal control processes are a key determinant of segmenting episodic memories, and task set updating can trigger event segmentation independent of any externally induced, perceptual or task-based prediction error.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wang, YC; Egner, T

Published Date

  • April 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 221 /

Start / End Page

  • 104992 -

PubMed ID

  • 34929522

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-7838

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0010-0277

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104992


  • eng