Investigating the motor strategies involved in handwriting and recall of unfamiliar text


Repetitive writing is an effective strategy for enhancing recognition memory for unfamiliar texts, possibly because the involvement of sensorimotor networks during writing strengthens the spatial cognitive networks utilised for word recognition. However, the relative contribution of visual feedback and motor processes to the recognition benefit remains unclear. In this study, we examine whether the nature of the visual information presented during writing influences later recognition of unfamiliar texts. In an initial encoding phase, participants encoded a list of 8 words in an unfamiliar text (i.e., Arabic). Participants then performed a pre-test where they attempted to identify each previously encoded word in a three-alternative-forced choice task. Participants then underwent an acquisition phase where they wrote a portion of the encoded words (trained words) in four counterbalanced conditions: observational writing (OW), then active handwriting either with full visual feedback (A), without visual feedback of their writing (e.g., active no-ink or ANI), or without visual feedback of the environment (ANVE). To determine the effects of this training, participants performed a post-test that was identical to the pre-test. Recognition accuracy (# correct responses) was computed for both the pre- and post-tests. Accuracy differences between conditions were assessed using a four (condition) by two (pre/post) repeated measures ANOVA. Recognition accuracy increased from the pre-test to the post-test after training in all conditions for trained, but not untrained words. These results provide evidence that both active writing and passive observation improved recall of unfamiliar text.