The role of language in memory for actions

Matthew Finkbeiner, Janet Nicol, Delia Greth, Kumiko Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Languages differ with respect to how aspects of motion events tend to be lexicalized. English typically conflates MOTION with MANNER, but Japanese and Spanish typically do not. We report a set of experiments that assessed the effect of this cross-linguistic difference on participants' decisions in a similarity-judgment task about scenes containing novel animations as stimuli. In Experiment 1, which required participants to encode the stimuli briefly into memory, we observed a language effect; in Experiment 2, which required participants to analyze the same stimuli, but not remember them, the language effect disappeared. Hence, these, experiments reveal a task-dependent effect, which, we argue, points to working memory as the source of the language effect observed in Experiment 1 and, potentially, other experiments that have shown a linguistic relativity effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-457
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of psycholinguistic research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


  • Language
  • Linguistic relativity
  • Motion events
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


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