Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Realizing Complex Delayed Intentions in Young and Old Adults: The Role of Planning Aids

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Realizing Complex Delayed Intentions in Young and Old Adults: The Role of Planning Aids

Article excerpt

Although it has been suggested that the delayed realization of intended actions should benefit from appropriate intention planning, empirical evidence on this issue is scarce. In three experiments, we examined whether and which planning aids provided in the intention formation phase affect delayed intention realization in young and old adults. One finding was that intention planning directly affected delayed intention realization: instructing participants to include the cue for appropriate intention initiation in their plans benefited delayed performance. Another finding was that older adults' performance was improved when they were guided in structuring their plan in combination with guidance in implementing this plan after a delay. In sum, the results point to the importance of plan-related factors for understanding the delayed realization of intended actions.

In recent years, research on the nature of cognitive functioning has increasingly concentrated on everyday processes. In this context, a growing body of literature has investigated the process of remembering to carry out intended activities in the future-that is, prospective memory (see Brandimonte, Einstein, & McDaniel, 1996; Kliegel, McDaniel, & Einstein, in press, for edited volumes; see also Cherry & LeCompte, 1999; Einstein, McDaniel, Manzi, Cochran, & Baker, 2000; Hicks, Marsh, & Russell, 2000; Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2004).

For the most part, studies on prospective remembering focus on how participants remember to perform a single, isolated act at the appropriate point during the experimental session (e.g., to remember to press a target button in reaction to a specific target word; Einstein & McDaniel, 1990; Guynn, McDaniel, & Einstein, 1998; Marsh & Hicks, 1998; Maylor, 1996; McDaniel & Einstein, 1993; McDaniel, Robinson-Riegler, & Einstein, 1998; Park, Hertzog, Kidder, Morell, & Mayhorn, 1997). However, such paradigms might not fully capture the multiple natures of many everyday prospective memory demands. In everyday life, we are faced with complex situations where we are required to remember to perform not just one or several similar intentions, but rather sets of diverse intentions. Moreover, performance of our intentions is often restricted in terms of order, importance, and time. For instance, we may have to remember to carry out various jobs as best as we can but not really have enough time for each one, in which case we might have to remember to switch between tasks occasionally.

A strategy thought to be important when dealing with the complexity of realizing delayed intentions is planning (see Ellis, 1996; ElHs & Kvavilashvili, 2000). In fact, according to McDaniel and Einstein's (2000) theoretical framework of event-based prospective memory, one important factor in prospective remembering is the planning of the to-be-performed actions (see also models developed by Dobbs & Reeves, 1996; Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2002; Kvavilashvili & Ellis, 1996). Despite these theoretical proposals, empirical evidence concerning the impact of explicit intention planning on performance in prospective memory tasks is scarce as most studies do not include explicit planning requirements in their procedure. However, some studies have demonstrated the benefits of adopting external cues for prospective memory performance in naturalistic tasks (e.g., Maylor, 1990). Other evidence comes from studies that investigated prospective memory in neuropsychological patients with planning deficits or studies in which planning measures were correlated with prospective memory performance (Burgess, Veitch, de Lacy Costello, & Shallice, 2000; Cockburn, 1996; Fortin, Godbout, & Braun, 2002; Mutin, Kliegel, & McDaniel, 2003; Shallice & Burgess, 1991). These findings largely support the idea that planning ability might benefit prospective memory (but see, e.g., Bisiacchi, 1996, for different findings). …

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