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Temporal compression in episodic memory for real-life events

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Remembering an event typically takes less time than experiencing it, suggesting that episodic memory represents past experience in a temporally compressed way. Little is known, however, about how the continuous flow of real-life events is summarised in memory. Here we investigated the nature and determinants of temporal compression by directly comparing memory contents with the objective timing of events as measured by a wearable camera. We found that episodic memories consist of a succession of moments of prior experience that represent events with varying compression rates, such that the density of retrieved information is modulated by goal processing and perceptual changes. Furthermore, the results showed that temporal compression rates remain relatively stable over one week and increase after a one-month delay, particularly for goal-related events. These data shed new light on temporal compression in episodic memory and suggest that compression rates are adaptively modulated to maintain current goal-relevant information.
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Keywords: Episodic memory; autobiographical memory; personal goals; temporal compression; wearable camera

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Psychology and Neuroscience of Cognition Research Unit, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium 2: Cognitive Psychopathology and Neuropsychology Unit, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: July 3, 2018

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