FB 6 Mathematik/Informatik/Physik

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Episodic Cognition




Episodic cognition comprises episodic memory and episodic future thinking. (The term “episodic memory” is much more known than the other terms, “episodic future thinking” or “episodic cognition”.) If episodic memory is the memory of daily personal experiences (“things that happened to me yesterday, or 10 years ago”), then episodic future thinking is the prospection of things that may happen to me tomorrow or in 10 years. Importantly, episodes (past or future) carry www information: what, where and when. That is, the content of our memory (what happened) is remembered in its spatio-temporal context (where, when). That’s why this kind of memory is also called “relational” memory. The same holds for episodic future thinking: I am imagining myself experiencing something at a certain place and time. How do I do this? By mental time travel, i.e., I project myself into my personal past or future. Mental time travel is characterized by chronesthesia – a sense of time and autonoesis – a sense of self: knowing that this has happened/will happen to me.
In this course, we will discuss various aspects of episodic cognition:
How episodic memory differs from semantic memory and from autobiographic memory in the memory taxonomy.
How philosophers conceive of episodic cognition: Is it a “natural kind”? – as compared to other forms of memory, in particular when we consider its sequential character. What does it “feel like” to have an episodic memory, how do these past (or future) episodes appear to us (phenomenologically)?
Which (distinct) brain areas support episodic memory and future thinking? Prime candidates are the hippocampus with its place and time cells and the Medial Temporal Lobe (MTL).
How does episodic cognition develop in children? Endel Tulving (who is a big figure in episodic memory research) claimed that children under 4 years of age do not have episodic memory at all! Now we know that episodic memory develops heavily between 3-5 years of age (and episodic future thinking a bit later). We also have an idea which cognitive abilities support it (executive function, language).
When we think of a past or envision a future episode we often detach our eye-gaze from the objects around us or our interlocutor and look into the void (e.g., we stare at the ceiling or into the sky). Do such “non-visual eye-movements” tell us anything about episodic cognition? Do we construct our episodes mentally while we are seemingly “looking at nothing”?
Do non-human animals have episodic cognition? For a long time this was not held possible (mainly because they cannot tell you!). Animals were thought to be “stuck in time”, i.e., not capable of mental time travel. However, with appropriate methodology and concepts we nowadays grant “episodic-like” memory and future thinking to them. Interestingly, also animals in whom you would not suspect it have quite remarkable episodic cognitive abilities, e.g. jays (big-brained birds.)
Lastly, can you also conceive of things in the past that could have been? Certainly, but do such “episodic counter-factuals” resemble true episodic memories in terms of the cognitive processes and brain areas supporting them?
Episodic cognition is obviously highly relevant for us humans, in our daily life and at an existential level: Who would we be without our personal memories and our envisioned future? In our seminar, we will discuss these (and more) questions concerning episodic cognition, in an interdisciplinary cognitive science perspective.

Weitere Angaben

Ort: 93/E07
Zeiten: Mi. 09:00 - 12:00 (wöchentlich)
Erster Termin: Mittwoch, 03.04.2024 09:00 - 12:00, Ort: 93/E07
Veranstaltungsart: Seminar (Offizielle Lehrveranstaltungen)


  • Cognitive Science > Bachelor-Programm
  • Cognitive Science > Master-Programm
  • Schnupper Uni > Cognitive Science
  • Human Sciences (e.g. Cognitive Science, Psychology)
  • Cognitive Science