Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Motor Similarity Effect in Object Memory

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Motor Similarity Effect in Object Memory

Article excerpt

Published online: 7 January 2014

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract In line with theories of embodied cognition (e.g., Versace et al. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 21, 522-560, 2009), several studies have suggested that the motor system used to interact with objects in our environment is involved in object recognition (e.g., Helbig, Graf, & Kiefer Experimental Brain Research, 174, 221-228, 2006). However, the role of the motor system in immediate memory for objects is more controversial. The objective of the present study was to investigate the role of the motor system in object memory by manipulating the similarity between the actions associated to series of objects to be retained in memory. In Experiment 1, we showed that lists of objects associated to dissimilar actions were better recalled than lists associated to similar actions. We then showed that this effect was abolished when participants were required to perform a concurrent motor suppression task (Experiment 2) and when the objects to be memorized were unmanipulable (Experiment 3). The motor similarity effect provides evidence for the role of motor affordances in object memory.

Keywords Immediate memory . Motor system . Object memory . Embodied cognition

A motor similarity effect in object memory

An increasingly popular idea is that cognitive processing is a by-product of the interaction between the perceptual and motor systems used to interact with the objects in our envi- ronment-what is known as embodied cognition (e.g., Barsalou, 1999;Glenberg,1997; Versace, Labeye, Badard, & Rose, 2009). In the same vein, a number of researchers in the domain of immediate memory have suggested that the motor system is recruited during retention (e.g., Jones, Hughes, & Macken, 2006). For instance, there is increasing evidence that verbal retention relies on the language produc- tion architecture (e.g., Acheson & MacDonald, 2009; Page, Madge, Cumming, & Norris, 2007) and that spatial memory recruits the oculomotor system (e.g., Guérard & Tremblay, 2011; Theeuwes, Belopolsky, & Olivers, 2009). Although several studies suggest that motor affordances play an impor- tant role in object recognition (e.g., Bub & Masson, 2010; Tucker & Ellis, 1998), evidence for its role in object memory is more limited and contradictory (e.g., Mecklinger, Gruenewald, Weiskopf, & Doeller, 2004; Pecher, 2013). The objective of the present study was to investigate the role of the motor system in object memory by manipulating the similarity between the actions associated with the objects to be retained in memory.

Several studies suggest that the actions associated to an object are automatically activated by its visual presentation (e.g., Helbig, Graf, & Kiefer, 2006; Labeye, Oker, Badard, & Versace, 2008; Tucker & Ellis, 1998). For instance, when the hand used to respond to an object presented visually on the computer screen is compatible with the orientation of its handle, response times are shorter than when it is incompatible (e.g., Tucker & Ellis, 1998). Tucker and Ellis proposed that viewing an object automatically activates the motor represen- tations specific to the hand most suited to grasp it. Subsequent studies have shown such facilitation when the hand shape - that is, a precision or a power grip (e.g., Bub, Masson, & Cree, 2008; Ellis & Tucker, 2000)-or wrist rotation (e.g., Ellis & Tucker, 2000) used during response execution is compatible with the object, as compared with when it is incompatible. These studies suggest that the actions performed to physically interact with objects are activated during object recognition. Other researchers went further to suggest that the activation of these motor representations plays a critical role in object recognition (e.g., Bub, Masson, & Bukach, 2003; Helbig, Steinwender, Graf, & Kiefer, 2010). For instance, activation of a given action representation facilitates the recognition of an object that affords this action (Helbig et al. …

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