Improving prospective memory with contextual cueing

Vanessa K. Bowden, Rebekah E. Smith, Shayne Loft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Prospective memory (PM) involves remembering to perform an intended action in the future. Researchers have demonstrated that, under certain conditions, contextual information about when PM performance opportunities are likely to occur can support PM performance while decreasing the cognitive demands of the PM task. The current study builds upon prior work to investigate whether warning participants that a PM-relevant context was approaching would improve the efficiency of PM control processes and benefit PM accuracy. Participants completed an ongoing lexical decision task with an embedded PM task of responding to a target syllable. For context conditions, targets only appeared on trials where letter strings were colored red (PM-relevant context), while PM-irrelevant trials were green. The warning in Experiment 1 was embedded in the ongoing task (trials preceding PM-relevant contexts were colored yellow). In Experiment 2 the warning was separate from the ongoing task (1-s pre-trial red fixation preceding PM-relevant contexts). Context improved PM control efficiency and PM accuracy in both experiments. Context always improved PM accuracy for targets in the second and third trial positions of PM-relevant contexts; however, only the Experiment 2 warning generated an accuracy benefit for targets in the first trial position. Experiment 3 replicated the findings of Experiments 1 and 2 and also confirmed that color change without associated context was not responsible for the current results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory and Cognition
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jan 2021

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