Encoding information for future action: Memory for to-be-performed tasks versus memory for to-be-recalled tasks

Asher Koriat, Hasida Ben-Zur, Alumit Nussbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is the nature of the representation underlying memory for future tasks such as calling the doctor or buying milk? If this representation consists of a verbal instruction that is translated into action at the time of retrieval, then memory should be better when tested via verbatim recall of the instruction than when tested via actual performance. Three experiments rejected this possibility, indicating better memory for a perform mode of report than for a recall mode of report. This was true in Experiment 1 in which subjects saw a series of verbal instructions (e.g., "move the eraser," "lift the cup," "touch the ashtray"), with advance information regarding the mode of report required during testing. In Experiment 2, the advance cue was valid only in 75% of the trials. Memory depended more heavily on the expected mode of report thanon the actual mode ofreport, suggesting that the perform superiority is due to processes that occur during encoding. In Experiment 3, subjects learned 20 phrases depicting minitasks were remembered by subjects tested via performance than by subjects tested via verbatim recall. A second part of Experiment 3 also indicated superior memory when a perform test was expected, regardless of which mode of report was actually required. The results were compared with the finding that subject-performed tasks are better remembered thanare their verbal instructions, which suggeststhat the representation underlying memory for future assignments-may-take advantage of the imaginal-enactive properties ofthe envisagedacts. Other possible differences between memory for to-be-recalled tasks and memory for to-be-performed tasks are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-578
Number of pages11
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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