Time in Memory

Psychologists and Narratologists, see also: Cognitive Emplotment

How do readers/audiences remember chronology? How do we remember the sequence of a storyline, after receiving that story in narrative form? How do we remember historical time while reading stories set in the past? What are the cognitive tools that we use while blending a foregrounded storyline together with a historical background, chronologically? What happens if we learn the context of the First Century as a collection of interrelated stories, and then re-read the New Testament's narratives and epistles? How does Time work in our Memory when thinking about events of the past?

Because remembering is constructive, and depends on cognitive efficiency, a Mnemonic Timeline is put together from memories that happen to display temporal implications. When information contained in a memory offers context clues with regard to some prior or subsequent memory, that mnemonic content thus becomes self-sequencing. When content structures itself, constructive remembering (of a timeline) can occur with less informational cost, without extra cognitive processing. Furthermore, the most common types of self-sequencing temporal information happen to reflect the literary conventions of Plot (causality), Character (development), Setting (movement), and Conflict (disruption). Perhaps these four categories are not "elements of literature" at all, but the roots of remembering time, and thus the roots of all narrativity itself.

My thesis in one sentence:

Stories are what memory makes from paying attention to change.


Before I list links to individual posts, here is a summary of the four lengthy blog series (in progress), each on one of the four basic types of self sequencing content.

SERIES ONE (PLOT): Memory and Narrative, focuses on the mnemonic efficiencies of Plot, giving special attention to causality, contingency, and the beneficial distortion of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc".

SERIES TWO (CHARACTER): Heroic History, works through the challenges of understanding why and how rememberable stories can be more biographical in terms of structure, and less like a classical plot.

SERIES THREE (SETTING): Representing Transitions, is going to look at the temporal implications of physical movement, the paradox of continuous change, and the figure/ground nature of defining "events".

SERIES FOUR (CONFLICT): Memory & Irony, will examine the disruption of expectations. Recalling one set of events as a traumatic negation of prior projections (e.g., crushed hopes, failed plans) implies a temporal distinction between two perceived 'equilibria' (i.e., "time periods").

Obviously, these blog posts are mere explorations of the overall thesis, and eventually I'll hope to publish a more professional analysis. For now, however, Series One is complete and Series Two (2A, 2B, and 2C) is nearing completion. I have also posted a pair of very rough abstracts about Series Three and Four here. You can also read my early attempt to sum up the overall thesis in less than 500 words.

Progress below will continue as time and resources allow...


Memory and Narrative

Memory & Narrative, 1 (June, 2014): A Story is a coping strategy to deal with the fact that we'd like to remember the past but there's just too darn much of it.

Memory & Narrative, 2 (June, 2014): What if human memory's extensive need for efficiency is primarily responsible for the nature of how we construct Stories.

Memory & Narrative, 3 (July, 2014): Re-examining E.M. Forster's famous remarks on causality according to sequential information and mnemonic efficiency.

Memory & Narrative, 4 (July, 2014): A surprising connection (in audience memory) between the "chronicle" of history and the major "plot points" of authorial narrativizations.

Memory & Narrative, 5 (July, 2014): Complex historical causes versus simplified narrative causality; the mnemonic advantages of inflating causality.

Memory & Narrative, 6 (August, 2014): Simplicity versus complexity in representing the past; contingency as the bedrock of remembering change.

Memory & Narrative, 7 (October, 2014): A preview of the rest of my thinking on engineering efficiently rememberable storytelling - "post hoc", the "great man" theory, and ceremonial transitions.

BONUS POST: Five Variations of the "post hoc" Fallacy (September, 2014): Differentiating the mnemonic advantages of narrative causality, according to a five part taxonomy; (1) Assumed Causality (pure superstition), (2) Inflated Causality (isolating a single cause among many), (3) Bloom as Root (mistaking an intermediate effect as the original cause), (4) Multiple Effectuality (aggrandizing a cause by its many "effects"), and (5) Widespread Contingency (extremely broad cases of Multiple Effectuality)


Heroic History

Heroic History, 1 (October, 2014): mnemonic efficiencies of an infamous narrative distortion

Heroic History, 2 (October, 2014): Why is the aggrandizing of character such a helpful mnemonic for storytellers?

Heroic History, 3 (November, 2014): mnemonic advantages of a narrative distortion: aggrandizing individual lives

Heroic History, 4 (December, 2014): on Aristotle's bias towards "unified plots" and his rejection of biography 

Heroic History, 5 (December, 2014): how biographical story structure both defies and aligns with Aristotle's ideas about "plot structure"... and how the rememberability of one structure compares with the other

Heroic History, 6 (February, 2015) the unique story-discourse dynamic in biographical narratives and the mnemonic efficiencies of remembering life stories

Heroic History, Recap (March, 2015) - a helpful synopsis of this series so far (and TaCSoRB, below)

Towards a Cognitive Science of Remembering Biographies

TaCSoRB, (1 of 2) (March, 2015): autobiographical memory VS remembering biographies; cognitive psychology VS narratology

TaCSoRB (2 of 2) (March, 2015): remembering time, as a way of remembering (lengthy & elaborate) storylines

Remembering Life Stories

Remembering Life Stories, 1 - Character Development (Introduction) (posted May, 2015)

Remembering Life Stories, 2 - Temporal Content (posted June, 2015)

Remembering Life Stories, 3 - Biographical Temporality (posted July, 2015)

Remembering Life Stories, 4 - Familiar Serial Patterns (posted April, 2016)

Remembering Life Stories, 5 - Biographical Expertise (posted April, 2016)

Remembering Life Stories, 6 - Narrative Redundancy (posted May, 2016)

Remembering Life Stories, 7 - Biographical Redundancy (posted April, 2017)

Remembering Life Stories, 8Teleological Reconstruction (posted August, 2017)

UPCOMING POSTS - Watch this space for updates!

Remembering Life Stories, 9 - Story Compression (Modeling Reconstructive Algorithms)

Remembering Life Stories, 10 - Summary & Conclusion


Series Three:

Representing Transitions


Series Four:

Memory & Irony


There is (hopefully) much more to come...

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