They saw a movie: Long-term memory for an extended audiovisual narrative

Publication Year


Journal Article

We measured long-term memory for a narrative film. During the study session, participants watched a 27-min movie episode, without instructions to remember it. During the test session, administered at a delay ranging from 3 h to 9 mo after the study session, long-term memory for the movie was probed using a computerized questionnaire that assessed cued recall, recognition, and metamemory of movie events sampled ∼20 sec apart. The performance of each group of participants was measured at a single time point only. The participants remembered many events in the movie even months after watching it. Analysis of performance, using multiple measures, indicates differences between recent (weeks) and remote (months) memory. While high-confidence recognition performance was a reliable index of memory throughout the measured time span, cued recall accuracy was higher for relatively recent information. Analysis of different content elements in the movie revealed differential memory performance profiles according to time since encoding. We also used the data to propose lower limits on the capacity of long-term memory. This experimental paradigm is useful not only for the analysis of behavioral performance that results from encoding episodes in a continuous real-life-like situation, but is also suitable for studying brain substrates and processes of real-life memory using functional brain imaging.

Learning & Memory