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Working memory capacity for continuous events: The root of temporal compression in episodic memory?

  • Leroy, Nathan
  • Majerus, Steve
  • D'Argembeau, Arnaud
Publication Date
Apr 06, 2024
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peer reviewed / Remembering the unfolding of past episodes usually takes less time than their actual duration. In this study, we evaluated whether such temporal compression emerges when continuous events are too long to be fully held in working memory. To do so, we asked 90 young adults to watch and mentally replay video clips showing people performing a continuous action (e.g., turning a car jack) that lasted 3, 6, 9, 12, or 15 s. For each clip, participants had to carefully watch the event and then to mentally replay it as accurately and precisely as possible. Results showed that mental replay durations increased with event duration but in a non-linear manner: they were close to the actual event duration for short videos (3-9 s), but significantly smaller for longer videos (12 and 15 s). These results suggest that working memory is temporally limited in its capacity to represent continuous events, which could in part explain why the unfolding of events is temporally compressed in episodic memory.

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