Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

An Investigation into the Resource Requirements of Event-Based Prospective Memory

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

An Investigation into the Resource Requirements of Event-Based Prospective Memory

Article excerpt

The multiprocess view proposes that both strategic and automatic processes can support prospective memory. In three experiments, we embedded a prospective memory task in a lexical decision task; cues were either highly associated with response words or had no relation. Analyses of RTs on ongoing task trials indicated that (1) prospective memory was more dependent on the allocation of resources immediately prior to cue presentation under conditions of low association in comparison with high association and (2) processes engaged on cue trials were more resource demanding under conditions of low association in comparison with high association. These data support the claim of the multiprocess view that prospective memory can be more resource demanding under some task conditions in comparison with others. However, the prospective memory performance data were less supportive, with declines in prospective memory due to task-importance and cue-frequency manipulations comparable across the low- and high-association conditions. Taken together, these results have implications for two prominent theories of prospective memory.

Remembering to perform previously planned actions at appropriate points in the future is referred to as prospective memory (hereafter abbreviated as PM). Event-based PM tasks require individuals to remember to perform an action when a particular event occurs in the environment (e.g., remembering to stop at the post office when driving past), and are commonly distinguished from time-based PM tasks that require actions to be performed after the passage of a certain amount of time (Einstein & McDaniel, 1990; Kvavilashvili & Ellis, 1996). In everyday, eventbased PM situations, individuals are often busily engaged in other activities in the time interval between planning an action and the time that an environmental cue is encountered. In order to execute the delayed intention, individuals must interrupt these ongoing activities. Similarly, laboratory-based PM tasks typically require participants to perform a special action (e.g., press the Fl key) upon presentation of a specific cue (e.g., the word dog) while performing an unrelated ongoing activity (e.g., rating words; Einstein & McDaniel, 1990). The defining feature of event-based PM tasks is that, unlike retrospective memory tasks, there are no external agents (e.g., experimenter, printed instructions) directing participants to engage in a memory search. Instead, PM tasks require individuals to self-initiate the recollection of intentions in response to cues.

Theoreticians have put forward several explanatory frameworks regarding the processes that subserve PM, ranging from the view that these processes are strategic and require the allocation of cognitive resources (Burgess & Shallice, 1997; Ellis, 1996; Guynn, 2003; Shallice & Burgess, 1991; Smith, 2003; Smith & Bayen, 2004), to the view that these processes are automatic (Einstein & McDaniel, 1996; Guynn, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2001; McDaniel, 1995; McDaniel, Robinson-Riegler, & Einstein, 1998). McDaniel and Einstein (2000; see also McDaniel, Guynn, Einstein, & Breneiser, 2004) proposed the multiprocess view, which takes into account evidence for both strategic and automatic processes. The multiprocess view specifies the task conditions under which PM is more likely to rely on automatic processes, such as when there is a high degree of association between PM cues and intended responses.

In the present article, we focus on the multiprocess view and report a series of experiments designed to evaluate the mechanisms that this theory proposes underlie PM. In order to do this, we draw on one particular instantiation of the strategic view known as the preparatory attentional and memory processes (PAM) theory of PM (Smith, 2003; Smith & Bayen, 2004). The PAM theory proposes that PM requires the engagement of various cognitive processes that draw on a limited resource capacity. …

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