Time changes: Timing contexts support event segmentation in associative memory

Vincent van de Ven*, Moritz Jäckels, Peter De Weerd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We tend to mentally segment a series of events according to perceptual contextual changes, such that items from a shared context are more strongly associated in memory than items from different contexts. It is also known that timing context provides a scaffold to structure experiences in memory, but its role in event segmentation has not been investigated. We adapted a previous paradigm, which was used to investigate event segmentation using visual contexts, to study the effects of changes in timing contexts on event segmentation in associative memory. In two experiments, we presented lists of 36 items in which the interstimulus intervals (ISIs) changed after a series of six items ranging between 0.5 and 4 s in 0.5 s steps. After each list, participants judged which one of two test items were shown first (temporal order judgment) for items that were either drawn from the same context (within an ISI) or from consecutive contexts (across ISIs). Further, participants judged from memory whether the ISI associated to an item lasted longer than a standard interval (2.25 s) that was not previously shown (temporal source memory). Experiment 2 further included a time-item encoding task. Results revealed an effect of timing context changes in temporal order judgments, with faster responses (Experiment 1) or higher accuracy (Experiment 2) when items were drawn from the same context, as opposed to items drawn from across contexts. Further, in both experiments, we found that participants were well able to provide temporal source memory judgments based on recalled durations. Finally, replicated across experiments, we found subjective duration bias, as estimated by psychometric curve fitting parameters of the recalled durations, correlated negatively with within-context temporal order judgments. These findings show that changes in timing context support event segmentation in associative memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-580
Number of pages13
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Issue number2
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Associative memory
  • Event segmentation
  • Subjective duration
  • Temporal memory
  • Timing context


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