Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Effects of Motivation and Gender on Prospective Memory Strategy Use

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Effects of Motivation and Gender on Prospective Memory Strategy Use

Article excerpt



In the movie The Story of Us, Michelle Pfeiffer's character contemplates divorcing her husband of 15 years (Bruce Willis). Why? One reason is his irresponsible behavior, exemplified by the time he forgets to refill the windshield wiper fluid in the car. Though this is of course a fictional example, there are probably many who have been in similar circumstances, either forgetting an important task or feeling the sting of someone else forgetting something that was important to them.

Prospective memory tasks are tasks that we must remember to perform in the future. Examples of real-life prospective memory tasks, or intentions, include remembering to attend meetings, refill prescriptions, and pick-up children after soccer practice. Prospective memory tasks are thus distinguished from retrospective memory tasks, which instead concern memory for past events or information from the past. We rely heavily on our prospective memory in order to function independently- carrying out our intended actions throughout the day, be they mundane or critically important. Sometimes we forget to perform tasks and there are no real consequences. However, sometimes these errors have harmful effects on health, public safety, and even social relationships (e.g., Dieckmann, Reddersen, & Wehner, 2006; Dismukes, 2008). Why do we forget these tasks? Could strategies help us remember, and if so, why don't we use them more?

Common sense tells us that one way to improve the odds of remembering a task is to use memory strategies. Is there evidence to support this contention? In fact, memory strategies often do improve prospective memory performance (e.g., Einstein & McDaniel, 1990; McDaniel, Einstein, Graham, & Rall, 2004). For example, McDaniel et al. (2004) found that a simple external cue in the form of a blue dot was an effective reminder for remembering to perform a laboratory task. Strategies also have been shown to boost remembering in more naturalistic tasks. For instance, in a study of medication-taking errors (Park, Morrell, Frieske, & Kincaid, 1992), older adults were able to reduce the number of times they forgot a dose when they used a combination of two external aids (a chart and an organizer), relative to a no-aid control group. Previous studies have also shown that cognitive or internal strategies improve prospective memory performance. For example, across multiple studies, the strategy of forming an implementation intention (e.g., saying "If situation X occurs, then I will do Y") leads to better prospective remembering (e.g., Gilbert, Gollwitzer, Cohen, Oettingen, & Burgess, 2009; McCrea, Penningroth, & Radakovich, 2015; Zimmerman & Meier, 2010).

Given the evidence that memory strategies improve prospective memory performance, an important question is "What causes people to use these strategies"? The research literature has been largely silent on this issue. However, there are reasons to predict that one motivational variable, higher task importance, might prompt the use of memory strategies. That is, more important tasks usually show lower forgetting rates (e.g., Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2004; Kvavilashvili, 1987; Marsh, Hicks, & Landau, 1998; Meacham & Singer, 1977; Penningroth, Bartsch, & McMahan, 2012), and one plausible mechanism for this beneficial effect is greater strategy use.

This hypothesized link between higher task importance and greater strategy use is represented in the motivational cognitive prospective memory model (Penningroth & Scott, 2007), depicted in Figure 1. This model integrates motivational and cognitive factors that influence remembering to perform a task. As seen in the top-most box in the model, task importance is equated with relevance for a higher goal (Penningroth & Scott, 2013a). For example, imagine a college student who wants to remember to turn in a biology report. This task is viewed as important because it supports her higher goal of getting an A in the course. …

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