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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(12):2288-96. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2012.740053. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Mental time travel: effects of trial duration on episodic and semantic content.

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  • 1Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.


Studies exploring mental time travel commonly use cue-word paradigms to elicit past and future autobiographical events. However, the effect of trial duration (how long participants are allowed to describe events) on the relationship between episodic and nonepisodic detail and episodic specificity (i.e., whether longer durations increase event specificity) has not been examined. To resolve these issues, a cue-word study was devised whereby participants described past and future events under three randomly administered time constraints: short (1-min), standard (3-min), and long (5-min) durations. Findings indicated that an individual's capacity for episodic and nonepisodic thought for the past and future were unrelated. This lends supports to the idea that independent mechanisms are responsible for episodic and semantic information. This study also offers clarity concerning the effect of different trial durations on episodic specificity, which may aid the design of future studies of mental time travel.

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