Memory & Cognition

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 412-421

First online:

Memory for actions: Self-performed tasks and the reenactment effect

  • Neil W. MulliganAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of North Carolina Email author 
  • , Susan L. HornsteinAffiliated withSouthern Methodist University


Encoding action phrases by enactment (self-performed tasks, or SPTs) leads to better memory than does observing actions (experimenter-performed tasks, or EPTs) or hearing action phrases (Engelkamp, 1998). In addition, recognition memory for SPTs is enhanced when test items are reenacted. Experiment 1 demonstrated a reenactment effect for EPTs, as well as for SPTs, indicating that the effect can be based on visual, as well as motoric, feedback. However, the reenactment effect in SPTs was found even when the participants were blindfolded at test (Experiment 2), indicating that the basis for the reenactment effect differs across SPTs and EPTs. Experiments 3 and 4 provided additional evidence that visual feedback is not critical for reenactment recognition in the case of SPTs. In addition, these experiments failed to show a hand congruency effect (enhanced recognition when the same hand enacts at study and at test), indicating that this effect is not as generalizable as the reenactment effect. These results have important implications for the motor-encoding hypothesis of the enactment effect.