Event Model Analysis

Event Model Analysis (EMA) is a form of qualitative data analysis that draws on research in event cognition in order to suggest ways for parsing and coding event narratives. Humans interact with the world by creating generative models that try to predict what goes on in the environment. These are called event models. Event cognition is a domain of research that seeks to uncover the mechanisms of how such event models are constructed: what is typically represented, how are elements in an event related to each other, how are events recorded and reconstructed from memory? EMA offers a coding scheme and analysis procedure built on what we currently know about event model construction. This means that we can more easily shed light on “what happened”, draw attention to the constraints on interpretation at the time a working model was created, and be in a better position for teasing out the effects of memory on the representation of a past event.

The objective of EMA is to reconstruct event models cast in narrative. In principle, any event model can be reconstructed this way – regardless of whether its narrative frame is factual or fictional, or the medium is text, audio, or video recording. However, the method has most to offer when applied to events that people claim really happened to them. Whether it models a physical event or an “internal” event (such as a dream, or a hallucination) does not matter: in fact, we think the method has the most to offer when applied to events that are ambiguous in this regard, and where the subject offers explanations and categorizations that appear surprising or out of the ordinary. In such cases, e.g. anomalous sleep phenomena, “paranormal” experiences, or “religious” revelations, EMA offers us a framework for grounding our analysis in the psychological and physiological mechanisms involved with “interpreting” the flow of experience without jumping to conclusion with regard to how we categorize the experience (e.g. as a “hallucination”, a “psychotic experience”, or a “near death experience”). EMA lets us mediate in a more fine-grained way between the narrative evidence (our data) and explanatory contexts involved with the generation and interpretation of subjective experience.


Further reading

Taves, A., and E. Asprem. (2016). “Experiences as Events: Event Cognition and the Study of (Religious) Experience.” Religion, Brain & Behavior. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2016.1150327.

Asprem, E., and A. Taves. (2016). “Connecting Events: Experienced, Narrated, and Framed.” Religion, Brain & Behavior. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2016.1150337.


By Egil Asprem & Ann Taves (2016). License: CC BY-SA 3.0.

How to cite this entry.

Egil AspremEvent Model Analysis