Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Magliano, Joseph P.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology




Events are composed of component parts (i.e., sub-events) and humans naturally recognize shifts between events and sub-events. The process of chunking continuous spatiotemporal information into meaningful discrete parts during encoding is known as event segmentation. Research suggests that segmentation is driven by perceptual change, in a bottom-up fashion, rather than by background knowledge, in a top-down fashion. However, much of the previous work has focused on segmentation in contexts where there is likely to be minimal variation in one's level of background knowledge (e.g., washing the dishes). The goal of the present study was to explore the extent to which domain knowledge affects the segmentation and interpretation of events. In Experiment 1, participants watched basketball clips that were more or less structured in nature and provided ratings on the extent to which gameplay was structured, unstructured, strategic, and contained plays. In Experiment 2, participants watched clips from Experiment 1 and engaged in a segmentation task followed by an event description task. Domain knowledge did not appear to affect event segmentation but did affect video ratings in Experiment 1 and event descriptions in Experiment 2. Results suggest that segmentation is largely driven by perceptual change with knowledge affecting later processing. While results are consistent with prior research, they are not definitive. The issue of whether or not prior knowledge affects early encoding processes and segmentation remains an open question and further research is needed to explore this issue. Implications, potential limitations, and suggestions for future work are discussed at length.


Advisors: Joseph P. Magliano.||Committee members: Stephan Schwann; Katja Wiemer.||Includes bibliographical references.


66 pages




Northern Illinois University

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