Windy McNernev and Robert West (2007), both with the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, India, explain that returning the DVD while running errands depicts an illustration of effective prospective memory. Substantial documentation signifies that in various instances, the accessibility of one’s effective memory ability or attentional resources can be vital for the comprehension of deferred intentions.
Richard L. Marsh, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, Jason L. Hicks, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Gabriel I. Cook (2006), University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, examine whether ask interference, having an intention, creates a cost to other ongoing activities. In the journal article, “Task interference from prospective memories covaries with contextual associations of fulfilling them,” Marsh, Hicks and Cook report contemporary research indicates that particular intentions held over the shorter term interfere with other tasks. As the collective effect of such costs would prove prohibitively costly in everyday life, Marsh, Hicks and Cook investigate one way to potentially reduce that interference.
Ccorrelating intention fulfillment with a precise context can eradicate task interference, Marsh, Hicks and Cook (2006) find. Examining intentions linked to future contexts vs. those not related proves to be a significant investment. Marsh, Hicks and Cook (2006) explain that one vital function of memory involves storing intentions about future activities, goals and plans. In the scientific literature, everyday examples of actions termed prospective memory include “intending to refill a prescription, planning a trip to the grocery store, setting aside a future time to write, read, or work on a hobby, or forming the intention to give someone a piece of information” (Marsh, Hicks & Cook, 2006, ¶ 2).
From their study exploring the degree that a prospective memory interferes with a continuing activity, Marsh, Hicks and Cook (2006) report in some instances, uncertain conditions may stimulate task interference in contexts where interference could have potentially be avoided otherwise. Marsh, Hicks, and Cook also find:
Maintaining an intention in an active state of readiness over the longer term would seem to be prohibitively expensive in terms of its deleterious effect on ongoing activities. We hypothesized that one way to off-load this cost would be to form a very specific intention and consider the future contexts that one might be in when the next opportunity to fulfill the intention would arise. Doing so would mean that an attentional-allocation policy toward an ongoing activity would not have to be modified until a context was reached that was linked to an intention. The data from the two experiments reported here are consistent with that hypothesis. (Marsh, Hicks & Cook, 2006, General Discussion Section, ¶ 1)
More investigation needs to be completed regarding their study’s focus, Marsh, Hicks and Cook (2006) propose as they find that, nevertheless, “breaks and starting new tasks serve to reset attentional-allocation policies” (General Discussion Section, ¶ 7). This explains why task interference does not occur when an intention links to a diverse context.
Focal and Nonfocal Cues
Brewer, Knight, Marsh and Unsworth (2010) assert that consideration of whether or not a person having an intention creates a cost to additional continuing activities, task interference, constitutes a current issue in the prospective memory field. Their study explores the extent that possessing a prospective memory interferes with the individual’s ongoing activity. The multiprocess theory asserts that, partially depending on the specificity of the cue, various processes can be utilized to detect event-based prospective memory cues. This perspective contends that attentional processes may not necessarily depend on focal cues, while nonfocal cues mandate some type of controlled attention.
To test this theory, Brewer, Knight, Marsh and Unsworth (2010) include participants with both high and low working memory capacities; utilizing a design comparing focal and nonfocal prospective memory task. The results of this study show that a distinct difference exists between focal and nonfocal cues and how they provoke one’s memory. This study determined that individuals with high working memory were able to detect nonfocal cues on a much higher basis than participants with low working memory. In some specific situations relating to apparent deficits in prospective memory, however, despite focal and nonfocal cues, an older individual may have to contend with a variety of material and/or physical limitations that may prohibit him from carrying out particular activities or actions.
Prospective Memory in Older Adults
As an individual ages, the prospect of actual or potential memory impairment functioning may serve as a significant threat for some adults. A number of theories of memory functioning into later life, with supporting evidence, suggest that aging does contribute to memory loss. “The consequence of age on the different mechanisms or neural pathways involved in these different memory systems, nevertheless, remains unclear. In total, ‘despite the phenomenological and empirical reality of age-related memory loss and the breadth of attempts to explain it'” (Teri et al., as cited in O’hanlon & Coleman, 2004, p. 41), research has yet to confirm a clear understanding as to why this phenomena occurs.
In the study, “The effect of perceptual distinctiveness on the prospective and retrospective components of prospective memory in young and old adults, Anna-Lisa Cohen, Roger a. Dixon, D. Stephen Lindsay, Michael E.J. Masson (2003) explain that prospective memory underlies significant daily activities like keeping an appointment, making a phone call, mailing a letter, and remembering to take medication. “Successful prospective memory performance is thought to involve two components: remembering at an appropriate moment that one must do something, and recalling what is to be done” (Dixon, Lindsay, & Masson). The prospective component constitutes “remembering at an appropriate moment that one must do something” (Ibid.). The retrospective component entails “recalling what is to be done” (Ibid). When person must remember to relate a message to a friend, for instance, successful prospective memory mandates that the friend’s appearance activates the memory that a message must be related (prospective component). In addition, successful prospective memory entails that the individual remembers the message’s content.
Compared to younger adults, older adults more likely reveal superior prospective remembering in naturalistic contexts with modest experimental control. Adults, however, tend to utilize everyday external memory aids like notes, which may contribute to this factor. Within laboratory contexts where memory supports like reminder notes are prohibited, however, older adults generally exhibit prospective memory deficits. Explicit task characteristics also alter age variations. Tasks that mandate a person remembers to perform an act in future circumstances without any prompts or cues, however, and that include a dissimilar (and attention demanding) ongoing activity correlate with age-related deficits. Research confirms that older adults experience particular challenges when they disengage from demanding concurrent activities (Dixon, Lindsay, & Masson, 2003).
Dixon, Lindsay, and Masson (2003) recount a study Maylor conducted with young, middle-aged, and older adults, testing their sensitivity to a prospective memory cue. Maylor instructed participants, completing an event-based prospective memory task implanted in a task, to identify the names of numerous famous faces. During the prospective memory task, participants had to mark the trial number of any individuals wearing glasses. Performance declined across age groups as the older adults only correctly identified 26% of the prospective memory cues. Maylor purports that according to the participants’ self-reports, relative to other age groups, older adults appear to consider the prospective memory instructions less frequently.
A number of other properties acknowledged to affect the individual’s level of recall in retrospective memory also influence prospective memory performance, including complication, relatedness, and salience. As some attention-demanding ongoing cognitive activity generally embeds prospective memory tasks, the perceptual salience of a prospective memory cue would potentially impact prospective memory performance. The recognition of that cue will more likely be successful as the target-cue proves more perceptually salient, relative to the array of other stimuli (Dixon, Lindsay, & Masson, 2003).
Dixon, Lindsay, and Masson (2003) report that a number of researchers examining the distinctiveness of prospective memory cues and ways they affect performance find that increasing the size of target pictures result in improved detection of the cue. Some researchers have also found that “presenting a cue word in upper-case letters relative to the majority of lower-case words results in superior prospective memory performance” (¶ 4). The fact that cues prove distinctive compared to existing knowledge or to the existing context, resulting in the spontaneous capture of the individual’s attention, serves as a potential explanation for the phenomenon. Cue distinctiveness therefore can work to change attention from an ongoing task to the prospective cue. It can also serve to re-instantiate context and proffer a reference frame to retrieve the linked intention. Dixon, Lindsay, and Masson (2003) also consider whether the cues equivalently affect performance on the prospective component and retrospective components as well as if such cues similarly influence performance for young and older adults. As older adults may ponder prospective memory instructions less frequently than younger adults, a perceptual salience manipulation may less likely affect the prospective memory performance of older adults.
As prospective failures may relate to a low frequency of reminiscences of that…