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More is not necessarily better: How different aspects of sensorimotor experience affect recognition memory for words

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number10
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/07/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Semantic richness theory predicts that words with richer, more distinctive semantic representations should facilitate performance in a word recognition memory task. We investigated the contribution of multiple aspects of sensorimotor experience-those relating to the body, communication, food, and objects-to word recognition memory, by analyzing megastudy data in a series of hierarchical linear regressions. We found that different forms of sensorimotor experience produced different effects on memory. While stronger grounding in object- and food-related experience facilitated word memory performance as expected for semantic richness, experience relating to communication did not. Critically, sensorimotor experience relating to the body impaired rather than facilitated recognition memory by inflating false alarms, which was not consistent with the idea that semantically richer representations are more memorable. Additionally, we found that pure imageability (i.e., consciously generating mental imagery, distinct from sensorimotor experience) contributes to semantic richness effects on word memory but with much smaller effect sizes than previously reported, once sensorimotor grounding was taken into account. These results suggest that word recognition memory is often but not consistently facilitated by rich semantic representations and that it is essential to separately consider distinct forms of sensorimotor experience rather than assuming more information is always better. The findings have implications for the use of semantic variables in memory research. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).