Multiple processes in prospective memory retrieval: factors determining monitoring versus spontaneous retrieval

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2005 Aug;134(3):327-42. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.3.327.


Theoretically, prospective memory retrieval can be accomplished either by controlled monitoring of the environment for a target event or by a more reflexive process that spontaneously responds to the presence of a target event. These views were evaluated in Experiments 1-4 by examining whether performing a prospective memory task produced costs on the speed of performing the ongoing task. In Experiment 5, the authors directly tested for the existence of spontaneous retrieval. The results supported the multiprocess theory (M. A. McDaniel & G. O. Einstein, 2000) predictions that (a) spontaneous retrieval can occur and can support good prospective memory and (b) depending on task demands and individual differences, people rely to different degrees on monitoring versus spontaneous retrieval for prospective remembering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Paired-Associate Learning*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time*