Events: They are the stuff of experience, but they aren’t what actually happens. What happens is ongoing dynamic, multidimensional, sensory flow, which is somehow transformed via psychological processes into structured, describable, memorable units of experience. Human action in the world, for example, generates dynamic multi-modal sensory streams that adult human observers fluently redescribe as event sequences. Human language offers another example: talk generates dynamic, multi-modal sensory streams that adult human listeners fluently redescribe as event sequences. On this broad framing, overarching questions emerge about event processing, such as: What is the nature of the redescription processes that fluently render dynamic sensory streams as event representations? How are event redescription skills acquired? Are there stable individual differences in such skill? If so, what accounts for this variability, and how might such differences affect cognitive and social functioning?
Recent research on action and language showcases the potential value of this broad, unifying approach to investigating event processing. One example is a body of recent work indicating that predictability monitoring is a key element of event redescription. That is, the experience of bounded events (e.g., words within continuous speech, or actions within continuous behavior) seems to emerge with the detection of “troughs” in sensory predictability. These regions of predictable unpredictability provide articulation points that demarcate one event from another in representations derived from the actual streaming information. A fluent event processor skillfully “rides the wave,” implicitly predicting such troughs and selectively targeting them as the sensory stream unfolds. Among other things, such findings point to acquisition of event processing fluency – whether in action or language -- depending crucially on learning mechanisms that promote cognitive reorganization as knowledge of predictability grows.