Psychological Research

, Volume 69, Issue 1–2, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Memory for actions: Item and relational information in categorized lists

  • Johannes Engelkamp
  • Kerstin H. Seiler
  • Hubert D. Zimmer
Original Article


Enacting action phrases in subject-performed tasks (SPTs) leads to better free recall than hearing or reading the same materials in verbal tasks (VTs). This enactment effect is usually explained by better item-specific information in SPTs than in VTs. The role of relational information is controversial. In the present paper, we will take the multiple recall approach to study the role of item and relational information in memory for actions by computing the number of item gains and the number of item losses over trials. This approach has previously been applied to lists of unrelated action phrases. We applied it to categorically related lists, also allowing a measure of relational information by clustering scores. It was found that SPTs produced more item gains than VTs. This finding confirmed the assumption that SPTs provide better item-specific information than VTs. The number of item losses did not differ between VTs and SPTs. This finding suggests that relational information is equally provided by VTs and SPTs. However, the organizational scores showed a more differentiated picture. Clustering was greater in SPTs than in VTs with randomly presented lists, but not with blocked lists. We suggested that these results, as well as other findings from the literature, could be explained by distinguishing automatic and strategic processes and the types of item associations that are addressed by these processes.


Free Recall Recall Test Strategic Process Recall Trial List Structure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (En 124/13). We would like to thank Nicola Ferdinand, Jochen Glössner, Hedda Janssen and Annabelle Saffran for their assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Engelkamp
    • 1
  • Kerstin H. Seiler
    • 1
  • Hubert D. Zimmer
    • 1
  1. 1.FR PsychologieSaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany

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