Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Differential Relational Encoding of Categorical Information in Memory for Action Events

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Differential Relational Encoding of Categorical Information in Memory for Action Events

Article excerpt

Memory for action phrases is better if the actions are enacted in subject-performed tasks (SPTs) than if they are only listened to in verbal tasks (VTs). This effect is ascribed to better item-specific encoding of SPTs than of VTs. The role of interitem relational information is controversial, and the findings of clustering with categorically structured lists are inconsistent (see Engelkamp, 1998). The present study contributes to clarifying these effects by demonstrating that intentional relational encoding can be used more efficiently in VTs than in SPTs and influences the degree of clustering. If the list structure is not obvious, inducing intentional encoding by presenting the category labels prior to list presentation and asking subjects to use this preinformation increases clustering in VTs but not in SPTs. Without preinformation, clustering scores of VTs and SPTs did not differ; with preinformation, clustering of VTs was stronger than that of SPTs. The authors suggest how the inconsistent findings with regard to clustering effects can be explained.

Often, what one remembers refers to things that one has done. One taps this kind of memory, for instance, when one describes to another person what activities one has carried out in the course of a day. This interest in one's activities contrasts with traditional memory research, in which mainly memory for verbal material is studied. Therefore, an important line of new memory research emerged when, about 25 years ago, researchers began to study memory for action events (Cohen, 1981, 1983; Engelkamp & Krumnacker, 1980; Saltz & DonnenwerthNolan, 1981). Since that time, a fair amount of research has been devoted to memory for action events (see Engelkamp, 1998; Nilsson, 2000; or Zimmer, 2001, for reviews). In the typical research paradigm of action memory, subjects are required to enact a series of action phrases such as "peel the banana" or "break the stick." They may use real objects or, as is usually the case, imagine using real objects when the actions require objects. Memory for such subject-performed tasks (SPTs) is usually compared with memory for verbal tasks (VTs), in which subjects only listen to or read the phrases.

The central finding from such comparisons, called the SPT effect, is that recall and recognition memory are better for SPTs than for VTs. Because a number of variables had different effects on performance in the two tasks, different explanations were proffered, including the proposals that memory for actions follows different laws than does verbal memory (Cohen, 1985), that memory for action events is multimodal and particularly rich (see, e.g., Backman, Nilsson, & Chalom, 1986), and that a specialized action output system is involved in SPTs but not in VTs (Engelkamp & Zimmer, 1983). In spite of all these different proposals to explain the findings related to action memory, it was widely accepted that the distinction between item-specific and relational information could make a valuable contribution to explaining said findings (Engelkamp, 1988; Knopf, 1991; Kormi-Nouri, 1995; Zimmer, 1991). However, the role that relational encoding processes plays in action memory remained controversial. The main goal of this study is to help clarify the role of relational encoding processes. In doing so, we will also contribute to the understanding of relational processes in verbal and in nonverbal tasks in general, as well as to exploration of the question of whether and how relational processes may influence the level of recall.

Item-Specific and Relational Information

The literature quite strongly supports a separation between memory of item-specific information and memory of relational information in list learning (see, e.g., Burns, 1993; Chalfonte & Johnson, 1996; Gillund & Shiffrin, 1984; Hunt & Einstein, 1981; McDaniel, Einstein, Dunay, & Cobb, 1986; Mulligan, 1999; Zimmer, 1991). Itemspecific information refers to the information that is specific for each individual item and that allows the item to be reintegrated and discriminated from other items. …

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.