Events, Narratives and Memory
Abstract: Whether non-human animals can have episodic memories remains the subject of extensive debate. A number of prominent memory researchers defend the view that animals do not have the same kind of episodic memory as humans do, whereas others argue that some animals have episodic-like memory—i.e., they can remember what, where and when an event happened. Defining what constitutes episodic memory has proven to be difficult. In this paper, I propose a dual systems account and provide evidence for a distinction between event memory and episodic memory. Event memory is a perceptual system that evolved to support adaptive short-term goal processing, whereas episodic memory is based on narratives, which bind event memories into a retrievable whole that is temporally and causally organized around subject’s goals. I argue that carefully distinguishing event memory from episodic memory can help resolve the debate.