Does mental context drift or shift?

Sarah DuBrow, Nina Rouhani, Yael Niv, Kenneth A. Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Theories of episodic memory have proposed that individual memory traces are linked together by a representation of context that drifts slowly over time. Recent data challenge the notion that contextual drift is always slow and passive. In particular, changes in one's external environment or internal model induce discontinuities in memory that are reflected in sudden changes in neural activity, suggesting that context can shift abruptly. Furthermore, context change effects are sensitive to top-down goals, suggesting that contextual drift may be an active process. These findings call for revising models of the role of context in memory, in order to account for abrupt contextual shifts and the controllable nature of context change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - Oct 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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