An observation on the spontaneous noticing of prospective memory event-based cues

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Mar;37(2):298-307. doi: 10.1037/a0021969.


In event-based prospective memory, current theories make differing predictions as to whether intention-related material can be spontaneously noticed (i.e., noticed without relying on preparatory attentional processes). In 2 experiments, participants formed an intention that was contextually associated to the final phase of the experiment, and lures that overlapped to differing degrees with the features of the intention-related cues were embedded in the initial phase. When participants were outside of the appropriate responding context (i.e., the initial phase), they exhibited slower latencies to lures that exactly matched the features of their intention compared with other types of lures and control words. In addition, on a final remember/know recognition test, participants reported having greater subjective recollection for the occurrence of the exact-match lures. These results suggest that exact-match lures were spontaneously noticed and differentially processed in the absence of any observable preparatory attentional processes. The findings have implications for the theoretical debate over whether preparatory attention must always be relied upon to notice intention-related material.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Observation*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Verbal Learning / physiology
  • Vocabulary