British Journal of Psychology

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Volume 86 Issue 2 (May 1995), Pages 161-319

Visual imagery and enactment of actions in memory (pages 227-240)

It was assumed that self‐performing an action necessarily focuses information‐ processing on action‐relevant information in order to guarantee smooth enactment. As a consequence, enacting an action should provide the subjects with excellent item‐specific information and hinder the subjects from encoding contextual information that is not a part of the action proper. These hypotheses were tested in paired‐associate learning experiments in which unrelated action‐verb‐pairs served as stimuli. Free recall (FR) of the action verbs was considered to indicate item‐ specific encoding, and cued recall (CR)—with one element of a pair serving as a cue for the other—to reflect context encoding. The verb‐pairs were learned essentially under four types of instructions: under standard learning instructions (as a control), under enactment instructions, under self‐imagery instructions, and under other‐ imagery instructions. The results demonstrated that enactment led to better FR than standard learning and the two imagery conditions, showing that enactment provides excellent item‐specific information. CR was equally poor after overt enactment and self‐imagined performance and worse after standard learning and after imagining somebody else performing an action, showing that motor encoding hinders pair integration—i.e. efficient context encoding.

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