Individual differences in event-based prospective memory: Evidence for multiple processes supporting cue detection

Mem Cognit. 2010 Apr;38(3):304-11. doi: 10.3758/MC.38.3.304.


The multiprocess view proposes that different processes can be used to detect event-based prospective memory cues, depending in part on the specificity of the cue. According to this theory, attentional processes are not necessary to detect focal cues, whereas detection of nonfocal cues requires some form of controlled attention. This notion was tested using a design in which we compared performance on a focal and on a nonfocal prospective memory task by participants with high or low working memory capacity. An interaction was found, such that participants with high and low working memory performed equally well on the focal task, whereas the participants with high working memory performed significantly better on the nonfocal task than did their counterparts with low working memory. Thus, controlled attention was only necessary for detecting event-based prospective memory cues in the nonfocal task. These results have implications for theories of prospective memory, the processes necessary for cue detection, and the successful fulfillment of intentions.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Memory*
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Time Factors