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Prospective memory and ageing: is task importance relevant?


Kliegel, M; Martin, Mike; Moor, C (2003). Prospective memory and ageing: is task importance relevant? International Journal of Psychology, 38(4):207-214.

Abstract

Memory for activities to be performed in the future, i.e., prospective memory, such as
remembering to take medication or remembering to give a colleague a message, is a pervasive
real world memory task that has recently begun to attract the attention of numerous
researchers. Age effects in prospective memory have been found particularly in complex
paradigms requiring participants to remember to switch between several sub-tasks in a limited
time period (e.g., Kliegel, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2000). Here, most of the older adults tend
to try to complete one or two subtasks and to forget the prospective instruction to work on all
sub-tasks. Since recent findings in this context show that one profits from tips regarding the
relevant task’s salience in complex double-tasks, it seems likely that age effects in prospective
memory tasks might also be due to the lack of information about the salience of the
prospective task. To test this hypothesis, the salience of the prospective task was varied in the
present study with 104 young and old participants by providing motivational incentives to
interrupt and switch during the introduction phase (plan formation) as well as during the
execution phase. Also, interindividual differences regarding non-executive as well as
executive cognitive resources were analyzed, thus allowing estimation of the relationship
between these factors and (age-related) performance in complex prospective remembering.
The results show age effects in favour of the younger group in all task components of the
complex prospective multi-task. In contrast, none of the groups profited significantly from the
present experimental manipulation of motivational incentives. Finally, in regression analyses,
particularly planning (i.e. intention formation) was found to be a significant predictor of
intention execution, explaining most of the age-related variance. In sum, our results
specifically highlight the fundamental importance of adequately planning the complex
intention and do not support the hypothesis that age-related decrements in performance are
reflecting a lack of task salience in the present complex prospective memory paradigm.

Memory for activities to be performed in the future, i.e., prospective memory, such as
remembering to take medication or remembering to give a colleague a message, is a pervasive
real world memory task that has recently begun to attract the attention of numerous
researchers. Age effects in prospective memory have been found particularly in complex
paradigms requiring participants to remember to switch between several sub-tasks in a limited
time period (e.g., Kliegel, McDaniel, & Einstein, 2000). Here, most of the older adults tend
to try to complete one or two subtasks and to forget the prospective instruction to work on all
sub-tasks. Since recent findings in this context show that one profits from tips regarding the
relevant task’s salience in complex double-tasks, it seems likely that age effects in prospective
memory tasks might also be due to the lack of information about the salience of the
prospective task. To test this hypothesis, the salience of the prospective task was varied in the
present study with 104 young and old participants by providing motivational incentives to
interrupt and switch during the introduction phase (plan formation) as well as during the
execution phase. Also, interindividual differences regarding non-executive as well as
executive cognitive resources were analyzed, thus allowing estimation of the relationship
between these factors and (age-related) performance in complex prospective remembering.
The results show age effects in favour of the younger group in all task components of the
complex prospective multi-task. In contrast, none of the groups profited significantly from the
present experimental manipulation of motivational incentives. Finally, in regression analyses,
particularly planning (i.e. intention formation) was found to be a significant predictor of
intention execution, explaining most of the age-related variance. In sum, our results
specifically highlight the fundamental importance of adequately planning the complex
intention and do not support the hypothesis that age-related decrements in performance are
reflecting a lack of task salience in the present complex prospective memory paradigm.

Citations

15 citations in Web of Science®
16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:August 2003
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:28
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:22
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0020-7594
Additional Information:This is an electronic version of an article published in International Journal of Psychology 2003, 38(4):207-214. International Journal of Psychology is available online at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/pp/00207594.html
Publisher DOI:10.1080/00207590344000132
Related URLs:http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=11229357&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-2208

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