Do actions speak louder than words? Examining children’s ability to follow instructions

Amanda H. Waterman, Amy L. Atkinson, Sadia S. Aslam, Joni Holmes, Agnieszka Jaroslawska, Richard J. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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The ability to encode, retain, and implement instructions within working memory is central to many behaviours, including classroom activities which underpin learning. The three experiments presented here explored how action—planned, enacted, and observed—impacted 6- to 10-year-old’s ability to follow instructions. Experiment 1 (N = 81) found enacted recall was superior to verbal recall, but self-enactment at encoding had a negative effect on enacted recall and verbal recall. In contrast, observation of other-enactment (demonstration) at encoding facilitated both types of recall (Experiment 2a: N = 81). Further, reducing task demands through a reduced set of possible actions (Experiment 2b; N = 64) led to a positive effect of self-enactment at encoding for later recall (both verbal and enacted). Expecting to enact at recall may lead to the creation of an imaginal spatial-motoric plan at encoding that boosts later recall. However, children’s ability to use the additional spatial-motoric codes generated via self-enactment at encoding depends on the demands the task places on central executive resources. Demonstration at encoding appears to reduce executive demands and enable use of these additional forms of coding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877–890
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Early online date17 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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