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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Event perception

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Abstract Events are central elements of human experience. Formally, they can be individuated in terms of the entities that compose them, the features of those entities, and the relations amongst entities. Psychologically, representations of events capture their spatiotemporal location, the people and objects involved, and the relations between these elements. Here, we present an account of the nature of psychological representations of events and how they are constructed and updated. Event representations are like images in that they are isomorphic to the situations they represent. However, they are like models or language in that they are constructed of components rather than being holistic. Also, they are partial representations that leave out some elements and abstract others. Representations of individual events are informed by schematic knowledge about general classes of events. Event representations are constructed in a process that segments continuous activity into discrete events. The construction of a series of event representations forms a basis for predicting the future, planning for that future, and imagining alternatives. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 608–620 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.133 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Memory

Hierarchy of mental models.

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A schematic depiction of how event segmentation emerges from perceptual prediction and the updating of event models. (a) Most of the time, sensory and perceptual processing leads to accurate predictions, guided by the event models that maintain a stable representation of the current event. Event models are robust to moment‐to‐moment fluctuations in the perceptual input. (b) When an unexpected change occurs, prediction error increases and this is detected by error monitoring processes. (c) The error signal is broadcast throughout the brain. The event models' states are reset based on the current sensory and perceptual information available; this transient processing is an event boundary. Prediction error then decreases and the event models settle into a new stable state. (Reprinted with permission from Ref 57. Copyright 2008 Elsevier).

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