Control of cost in prospective memory: evidence for spontaneous retrieval processes

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2010 Jan;36(1):190-203. doi: 10.1037/a0017732.


To examine the processes that support prospective remembering, previous research has often examined whether the presence of a prospective memory task slows overall responding on an ongoing task. Although slowed task performance suggests that monitoring is present, this method does not clearly establish whether monitoring is functionally related to prospective memory performance. According to the multiprocess theory (McDaniel & Einstein, 2000), monitoring should be necessary to prospective memory performance with nonfocal cues but not with focal cues. To test this hypothesis, we varied monitoring by presenting items that were related (or unrelated) to the prospective memory task proximal to target events. Notably, whereas monitoring proximal to target events led to a large increase in nonfocal prospective memory performance, focal prospective remembering was high in the absence of monitoring, and monitoring in this condition provided no additional benefits. These results suggest that when monitoring is absent, spontaneous retrieval processes can support focal prospective remembering. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics
  • Signal Detection, Psychological / physiology*