Karin Kukkonen, Ylva Østby and Bergljot Gjelvik explore the relations between memory, literature and mindfulness. This interdisciplinary research project investigates the phenomenology of personal episodic memory and how this relate to literary fiction and mindfulness meditation.

Two persons in the library

Ylva Østby and Karin Kukkonen

Photo: Tina Skouen

Literary fiction works with the mind in a collaborative process, engaging the reader’s immersion in the narrative, bringing “the story to life” in the reader’s mind. Similarly, remembering an episode of one’s life involves a mental simulation of what happened. Reading experiences may thus resemble the phenomenology of episodic memories. In this interdisciplinary research project, Kukkonen, Østby and Gjelvik explore the relations between the psychological states of personal episodic memory, literary reading and mindfulness meditation.

Personal episodic memory is a process of imaginative (re-)construction of one’s past experiences. In the mind, the scene is brought to life through mental simulation of an event. In this sense, episodic memory bears resemblance to the act of engaging with literary narrative fiction, as both involve a constructive creative process involving the brain’s default mode network.

Activity in this neural network is, more broadly, connected to mental simulation and mind wandering, and the network is also engaged during mindfulness meditation. By engaging the neural network underpinning mental simulation, both literary reading and mindfulness meditation may serve as a support for simulating episodic memories.

In this project, we investigate the phenomenology of personal episodic memory, and how the experience of reminiscence relates to literary reading and mindfulness meditation. The interrelatedness between the three states (a) reading fiction, (b) remembering personal memories and (c) mindfulness meditation is studied experimentally, looking at different qualities of experiencing personal memories.

Tags: Memory, Literature, Fiction, Mindfulness, Personal Episodic Memory
Published Oct. 2, 2020 1:22 PM - Last modified Mar. 9, 2022 10:22 AM