Date: Mar 17, 2021 03:00pm -4:30pm

Speaker: Buddhika Bellana

Title: A lasting influence of stories on spontaneous thought

Location: Online


Stories have an ability to transport us into alternate worlds. Whether it be in the form of a novel, a movie, or a vivid anecdote from conversation, this immersive quality is a central feature of how we engage with stories. Interestingly, stories also tend to persist in our minds. Most of us can easily think of a story that has stuck with us – one we could not shake for hours or even days – however, to date little empirical work exists on this phenomenon. If narratives can elicit a persistent influence on thought, how can we measure it in the laboratory? What are its cognitive properties? What are its consequences for our understanding of memory? In this talk, I will present the results of a series of experiments using a free association paradigm and techniques from natural language processing to begin unpacking the lasting influence of stories on spontaneous thought.


I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychological & Brain Sciences department at Johns Hopkins University. I work with Janice Chen and Christopher Honey. I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, with Morris Moscovitch and Cheryl Grady. I am interested in how we learn and remember, and my research shows how stories can be a useful window into these cognitive processes. You can find more information about my work on my website: