An investigation into the underlying mechanisms of enactment in Working Memory
: the role of action features in aiding action memory performance.

  • Angie Makri

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Enactment (physically performing instructions) has been shown to lead to better working memory and long-term memory performance in children and adults. This effect has been found when enactment is employed during presentation, during test or during both. However, the exact mechanisms underlying this effect are not fully understood. In order to investigate the underlying mechanisms of enactment, this project presented action-object phrases with enactment or verbal presentation but examined separately memory for action and objects at enactment or verbal recall in children and adults (Experiments 1 and 2). This manipulation was employed in order to examine if the enactment benefits rely on motor processing. It was assumed that if the enactment advantage is purely motoric in nature then an enactment benefit would be observed for performed actions but not objects.
Experiments 3 (children) and 4 (adults) employed enactment at presentation for action vs. object memory in order reconstruction and item recognition in order to examine whether enactment facilitates item and order memory for actions. Finally, Experiments 5 (children) and 6 (adults) examined memory for actions and objects in enactment recall, in order reconstruction and item recognition. The purpose of these experiments was to examine whether enactment recall facilitates item and order memory for actions and objects.
The findings overall suggest that physically performing instructions enhances memory predominantly for actions. Contrary to previous research, it was shown that enactment benefits order information, but this effect is specific to actions in enactment encoding. The absence of main enactment effects in Experiments 3, 4, 5 and 6 suggests that the enactment advantage is the product of rich processing of action events and that action-object bindings play a crucial role in the enactment advantage. Finally, the data obtained in these 6 studies provide evidence that enactment encoding and enactment recall may involve different processes.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorChris Jarrold (Supervisor)


  • Working memory
  • Enactment
  • motor memory
  • Cognitive development
  • action

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