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Description: The temporal contiguity effect (TCE) is the tendency for the recall of one event to cue recall of other events originally experienced nearby in time. Retrieved Context Models (RCMs), an influential family of episodic memory models, propose that the TCE results from a fundamental property of how episodic memories are formed: the binding of events to a drifting mental context representation. This suggests a TCE should not be dependent on any particular encoding strategy and should in fact be present regardless of intentionality of encoding. Here, we ask whether these models are compatible with recent findings that the TCE is dramatically reduced under incidental encoding even though memory accuracy is only modestly reduced. We begin by attempting to replicate this finding in a new large-scale study with over 6,500 subjects in which we manipulated encoding intentionality between subjects in delayed or continual distractor free recall. A small, but reliable, TCE was observed under incidental encoding in all conditions. In a simulation study, we show that RCMs can simultaneously fit both overall recall and the strength of the TCE in incidental encoding conditions. Additional analyses revealed that the incidental TCE is not an artifact of theoretically uninteresting factors, such as recency, and is consistent with being generated by the core context retrieval mechanisms of RCMs.


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