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Gains and losses in action memory

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Enacting action phrases (SPT for subject-performed task) produces better free recall than only learning the phrases verbally (VT for verbal task). A widespread explanation of the enactment effect is based on the distinction between item-specific and relational information. There is widespread agreement that the main reason is the excellent item-specific encoding by enactment. However, there is little direct evidence in the case of free recall. The role of relational information is less clear. We suggest that content-based relational encoding is better in VTs than in SPTs. In three experiments, in which multiple free recall testing used item gains and losses as indices of item-specific and content-based relational encoding, respectively, these assumptions were confirmed. Consistently more gains (indexing better item-specific encoding) and more losses (indexing poorer relational encoding) were observed in SPTs than in VTs (Experiments 1 and 2). Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the content-based relational information underlying losses is not identical with order-relational information (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, it was shown that an item-specific orienting task for VTs produced an equivalent number of item gains and losses as did the SPT condition.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724980244000648

Affiliations: Saarland University, Saarbr├╝cken, Germany

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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