Does semantic knowledge influence event segmentation and recall of text?

  • Kimberly M. NewberryEmail author
  • Heather R. Bailey


Knowledge benefits episodic memory, particularly when provided before encoding (Anderson & Pichert in Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17(1), 1–12, 1978; Bransford & Johnson in Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 717–726, 1972). These benefits can occur through several encoding mechanisms, one of which may be event segmentation. Event segmentation is one’s ability to parse information into meaningful units as an activity unfolds. The current experiment evaluated whether two top-down manipulations—providing context or perspective taking—influence the segmentation and memory of text. For the ambiguous texts in Experiment 1, half the participants received context in the form of a title, whereas the other half received no context. For the text in Experiment 2, half the participants read from the perspective of a burglar and the other half read from the perspective of a home buyer. In both experiments, participants read the passages, recalled the information, and then segmented the passages into meaningful units. Consistent with previous findings, participants who received context recalled more information compared with those who received no context, and participants in one perspective were more likely to recall information relevant to their perspective. Most importantly, we found that context and perspective facilitated more normative segmentation; however, the differences were small and suggest that effects of top-down processing on the segmentation of text may be modest at best. Thus, event segmentation processes that operate during text comprehension are influenced by semantic knowledge but may be more heavily driven by other factors (e.g., perceptual cues).


Event cognition Segmentation Knowledge Memory 



Thanks to the undergraduate research assistants in the Memory and Aging Lab for their help with data collection and scoring. No conflicts of interest to report.

Author contribution

Both authors contributed to the study concept, study design, and programming of the experiment. K. Newberry took the lead on data collection and data scoring. K. Newberry performed the data analyses under the supervision of H. Bailey. K. Newberry also drafted the manuscript, and H. Bailey provided revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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