Examining the influence of action on spatial working memory: The importance of selection

Michael D. Dodd, Sarah Shumborski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We report three experiments that examine the influence of pointing-to relative to passively viewing an array of objects that participants are attempting to memorize. Recently, Chum, Bekkering, Dodd, and Pratt (2007) provided evidence that pointing to objects enhanced memory relative to passively viewing objects when pointing instruction was manipulated within trial (e.g., point to one array but passively view the other). We replicate this result but also demonstrate that when pointing instruction is blocked (e.g., participants point to or passively view all items in an array as opposed to pointing to some while passively viewing others), pointing to an array of objects actually decreases memory relative to passively viewing that array. Moreover, when pointing is manipulated within trial, the influence of action on working-memory performance appears to be attributable to an enhancement of processing of the pointed-to items as well as a subsequent inhibition of the passively viewed array. These results demonstrate that while action can enhance working memory under conditions where a subset of items is actively selected for additional processing, when selection is not a requirement (e.g., either point to everything or passively view everything), action decreases working-memory performance. Thus, the relationship between action and spatial working memory is complex and context dependent. These results are also discussed as they relate to other similar phenomena (e.g., retrieval-induced forgetting, Corsi Blocks test) in which selection during processing may be critical, and collectively these results provide important insight into spatial working memory and the factors that influence it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1236-1247
Number of pages12
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 10 2009


  • Action
  • Selection
  • Spatial working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Examining the influence of action on spatial working memory: The importance of selection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this