Event segmentation on autobiographical narratives

Berna Arslan Uzunoğlu

When watching a movie or reading a story, we divide incoming information into meaningful units in order to understand the events depicted. This process is called “event segmentation”. In the literature, it is not clear what constitutes an event in autobiographical memory. Therefore, in this thesis we focused on event segmentation on autobiographical narratives. We carried out three sets of studies to understand the effects of particular cultural styles on how events are segmented, event segmentation’s functional role in memory, and the factors that drive event segmentation. In the first experiment, participants primed to adapt a more interdependent self and thus a more holistic reasoning approach tended to perceive fewer events in narratives; a finding suggesting a causal role for cultural lens in event segmentation. Secondly, we investigated the role that event segmentation plays in event memory. We manipulated the duration between the event segmentation phase and the recall task to either be 10 minutes or 48 hours. Readers, who were asked to retrieve memories reported by others, recalled sections identified as events better than other sections in both cases. Finally, we investigated the factors that drive event segmentation in autobiographical narratives. Current theories of discourse comprehension and findings regarding event segmentation suggest that readers track multiple dimensions of the situation described in a narrative. We observed that previously suggested factors (e.g. change in character) were not sufficient to explain event segmentation on autobiographical narratives. Therefore, we suggested other narrative properties (e.g. start of background information), and showed them to be more relevant in event segmentation on autobiographical narratives.