Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Influence of Strategic Monitoring on the Neural Correlates of Prospective Memory

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Influence of Strategic Monitoring on the Neural Correlates of Prospective Memory

Article excerpt

The influence of strategic monitoring on the neural correlates of prospective memory was examined in two experiments. Strategic monitoring was manipulated by varying the context in which prospective cues occurred, with the cues requiring a prospective response in one task context and not the other. The N300, associated with cue detection, and the prospective positivity, associated with postretrieval processes, were elicited by prospective hits and were not elicited by prospective misses or ignore prospective cues. A parietal old-new effect was elicited by prospective misses and ignore prospective cues. Together these findings indicate that strategic monitoring may be necessary for cue detection and the recruitment of postretrieval processes, but not the recognition of a prospective cue as an old item. These findings serve to refine strategic monitoring and automatic associative accounts of prospective memory.

In the hectic modern world we are often faced with multiple competing goals or intentions at any given time. On some occasions intentions can be realized immediately. For instance, it is often easy to identify the full citation of a recently published article that is needed for a research project while sitting at one's computer. In contrast, on other occasions we are required to postpone the realization of the same intentions. In the context of the previous example, one might be required to delay searching for the desired citation until the completion of a conversation with a colleague or student. The study of the cognitive processes that allow one to realize delayed intentions represents the principle subject matter of the field of prospective memory research (Ellis, 1996; McDaniel & Einstein, 2000).

In the typical event-based prospective memory task, prospective memory cues are embedded in an ongoing activity that places varying demands on cognitive processing. Individuals encode the prospective cues at the beginning of the task and are instructed to perform the ongoing activity and to make a prospective response that differs from that required for the ongoing activity when the prospective cues are encountered. The need for self-initiated processing to support the recognition of a cue within the context of prospective memory is commonly thought to be what differentiates prospective memory from other forms of explicit episodic memory (Craik, 1986; Graf & Uttl, 2001). Strategic monitoring represents one form of self-initiated processing that has been proposed to support prospective memory in the writings of a number of investigators (Burgess & Shallice, 1997; Guynn, 2003; Smith, 2003).

One of the more fully developed conceptual frameworks examining the role of strategic monitoring as related to prospective memory is found within the preparatory attentional processes and memory processes theory (PAM) (Smith, 2003; Smith & Bayen, 2004). Smith and Bayen (2004) propose that the realization of delayed intentions is dependent on the engagement of preparatory attentional processes that serve to monitor the environment for prospective cues (see also, Burgess & Shallice, 1997; Guynn, 2003), and memory processes that serve to discriminate prospective cues from noncues (Smith & Bayen, 2004). A critical assumption of this theory is that preparatory processes (i.e., strategic monitoring) must be engaged in order for an intention to be realized.

The PAM theory of prospective memory is supported by evidence from studies using behavioral (Smith, 2003), mathematical modeling (Smith & Bayen, 2004), and electrophysiological (West, Bowry, & Krompinger, 2006) methodologies. Behavioral evidence indicates that response time for the ongoing activity can be slowed by up to several hundred milliseconds when a prospective memory component is added to the task (Marsh, Hicks, Cook, Hansen, & Pallos, 2003; Smith, 2003). This prospective interference effect (Marsh et al., 2003) can be correlated with the accuracy of prospective memory, leading to the suggestion that it results from the engagement of preparatory processes (Smith, 2003). …

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