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PLOS ONE  2013 

The Semantic Representation of Event Information Depends on the Cue Modality: An Instance of Meaning-Based Retrieval

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073378

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The semantic content, or the meaning, is the essence of autobiographical memories. In comparison to previous research, which has mainly focused on the phenomenological experience and the age distribution of retrieved events, the present study provides a novel view on the retrieval of event information by quantifying the information as semantic representations. We investigated the semantic representation of sensory cued autobiographical events and studied the modality hierarchy within the multimodal retrieval cues. The experiment comprised a cued recall task, where the participants were presented with visual, auditory, olfactory or multimodal retrieval cues and asked to recall autobiographical events. The results indicated that the three different unimodal retrieval cues generate significantly different semantic representations. Further, the auditory and the visual modalities contributed the most to the semantic representation of the multimodally retrieved events. Finally, the semantic representation of the multimodal condition could be described as a combination of the three unimodal conditions. In conclusion, these results suggest that the meaning of the retrieved event information depends on the modality of the retrieval cues.


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