Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Enactment and Retrieval

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Enactment and Retrieval

Article excerpt

The enactment effect is one of a number of effects (e.g., bizarreness, generation, perceptual interference) that have been treated in common theoretical frameworks, most of them focusing on encoding processes. Recent results from McDaniel, Dornburg, and Guynn (2005) call into question whether bizarreness and, by association, related phenomena such as enactment are better conceptualized as arising due to retrieval processes. Four experiments investigated the degree to which retrieval processes are responsible for enhanced memory for enacted phrases. Participants were presented with two pure study lists and later recalled the lists separately (inducing pure retrieval sets) or recalled the lists together in a single test (inducing a combined or mixed retrieval set). Across all four experiments, the combined recall condition consistently failed to enhance the size of the enactment effect. The results provide no support for the retrieval account but are generally consistent with encoding accounts.

Although much of the research on human memory has focused on verbal materials, a significant portion of what people actually remember relates to what they have done. Research on enactment, or action memory, is concerned with understanding how people recall both simple and complex action sequences and how these results relate to those of verbal materials, a more thoroughly researched area. In a standard paradigm for studying action memory, participants perform simple tasks (such as tapping a desk or breaking a pencil), watch an experimenter perform the same task, or read/hear a description of the task. Tasks carried out by the participant (subject-performed tasks, or SPTs) usually result in better memory than do either experimenter-performed tasks (EPTs) or verbal tasks (VTs), a phenomenon dubbed the enactment or SPT effect (Engelkamp, 1998). The enactment effect has been found on a variety of tests, including recognition (e.g., Engelkamp, Zimmer, Mohr, & Sellen, 1994), free recall (e.g., Engelkamp & Dehn, 2000), and cued recall (e.g., Kormi-Nouri, 1995).

Several early studies indicated that enactment provides an efficient, nonstrategic encoding process that differed in some ways from the encoding of verbal information (Cohen, 1981, 1989; Engelkamp & Zimmer, 1985). For example, SPTs are less likely to produce serial position effects in recall (Cohen, 1981) or age effects than are VTs (Bäckman & Nilsson, 1984). Other research by Engelkamp and colleagues indicates that the motor component of SPTs is critical for the memorial benefits of enactment (e.g., Engelkamp, 1998). One particularly compelling demonstration has come from Engelkamp et al. (1994), in which enactment was manipulated not only during encoding, but at retrieval as well. When participants reenacted a phrase at test, recognition improved (see also Mulligan & Hornstein, 2003). This reenactment effect was interpreted in terms of the encoding specificity principle (e.g., Tulving & Thomson, 1973) and was taken as evidence that motor information was a critical part of the original memory trace for SPTs. Further support of the motor component theory has come from studies demonstrating an SPT advantage for blind participants and for normally sighted but blindfolded participants (Kormi- Nouri, 2000; Mulligan & Hornstein, 2003), indicating that visual imagery or visual feedback does not drive the SPT effect. Similarly, several researchers have required participants to interact with imaginary rather than actual objects (e.g., Engelkamp & Zimmer, 1984; Kormi-Nouri, 2000). Enactment still improves memory, refuting the possibility that it is simply the tactile feedback of the object in one's hand that improves memory.

Despite some differences between memory for actions and memory for verbal materials, there are also a number of important similarities. Consequently, the SPT effect has been analyzed in terms of two related memory frameworks: the item-specific-relational account and the item order account, both of which apply to memory for verbal materials, as well as to memory for actions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.