Familiarity and organization of action memory in adults and young children
Although research on action processing indicates people segment action according to a partonomic goal hierarchy, no previous research has investigated whether memory for complex human action is actually organized in the mind with respect to goals. This dissertation explored the primary organization of action memory in adults and young children and explored the role of familiarity in young children's organization of action in memory. Borrowing from the text memory literature, a priming experiment was designed to investigate the degree to which action memory is organized with respect to goals versus veridical temporal structure. In all studies, participants viewed videos in which goals were carried out in an interleaved fashion, such that the execution of a goal was at times interrupted by action related to the other goal. In a first experiment with adults, the results indicated that adults reorganize action information in memory in order to emphasize goal structure relative to verbatim temporal structure. A second control experiment with adults clarified that the goal priming effect observed in the first experiment arose as a result of viewing the action scenario and was not simply due to the stimuli cuing pre-existing semantic memory. The results of a third experiment with adults revealed this process of goal organization is unlikely to be a by-product of goal-based linguistic encoding, but instead reflects encoding of human action itself. Young children's action memory was examined in a fourth experiment, and the role of children's familiarity with the action scenarios in action memory organization was also explored. Children did not display a significant tendency to organize action according to goal inferences (or temporal structure, either, for that matter). As well, children's prior familiarity with action did not modulate their memory organization to any significant degree. Overall, the results of this dissertation suggest that adult memory for action emphasizes goal inferences but cannot speak to how or when this process in achieved developmentally. These findings have implications for contemporary theories of action processing, point to commonalities in the processing of language and human action, and open the door to future research into the development of action memory organization.
0633: Cognitive psychology