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ANFA 2021 | The role of the physical environment on memorization of experiences: perspectives

By Andréa de Paiva

This paper is concerned with the links between episodic memory and the physical environment. How does the physical environment play a role in episodic memory encoding of events and experiences? To what extent could encoding of memories be affected by the surroundings of the space where they were first experienced? Would we have stronger memories about our experiences depending on where we were when we first experienced them?

The internet and online video conferencing allowed people to engage in a variety of activities from one same place. This situation was intensified recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase of home office and homeschooling. If environments are an important element to support episodic memory encoding, perhaps some of the spaces we have been designing are not supporting memorization of experiences as they could be in this new context of using only the home – or a room at home – to engage in so many different activities.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the existing research on the possible connections between spaces and episodic memories of events and experiences, linking disconnected findings, pointing gaps and possibilities for future research. The investigation of such questions can lead to better understanding about how the physical environment can affect its users and their memories of what is experienced there. From workplaces to school and homes, these are all spaces where individuals spend a great portion of their lives and that could be affecting the memories they create for their lived experiences.

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