Human Nature

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 77-111

First online:

Segmentation in behavior and what it can tell us about brain function

  • Margret SchleidtAffiliated withHuman Ethology, Max Planck Society
  • , Jenny KienAffiliated with

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Natural human behavior is segmented into action units, functionally related groups of movements with durations of a few seconds. This phenomenon can also be found in nonhuman primates and other mammals. In humans, a similar segmentation can be found in planning, preparatory behavior, perception, and speech.

Temporal segmentation may be related to the functioning of short-term memory. Segmentation may thus be a central feature of neuronal integration. Segment length was hitherto thought to be determined by either capacity constraints or temporal factors. Instead we show that segment length depends on the interplay between capacity and temporal factors.

Key words

Behavior Perception Primates Processing capacity Repetition Speech Short-term memory Time structure