Automaticity and control in prospective memory: a computational model

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59852. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059852. Epub 2013 Mar 28.

Abstract

Prospective memory (PM) refers to our ability to realize delayed intentions. In event-based PM paradigms, participants must act on an intention when they detect the occurrence of a pre-established cue. Some theorists propose that in such paradigms PM responding can only occur when participants deliberately initiate processes for monitoring their environment for appropriate cues. Others propose that perceptual processing of PM cues can directly trigger PM responding in the absence of strategic monitoring, at least under some circumstances. In order to address this debate, we present a computational model implementing the latter account, using a parallel distributed processing (interactive activation) framework. In this model PM responses can be triggered directly as a result of spreading activation from units representing perceptual inputs. PM responding can also be promoted by top-down monitoring for PM targets. The model fits a wide variety of empirical findings from PM paradigms, including the effect of maintaining PM intentions on ongoing response time and the intention superiority effect. The model also makes novel predictions concerning the effect of stimulus degradation on PM performance, the shape of response time distributions on ongoing and prospective memory trials, and the effects of instructing participants to make PM responses instead of ongoing responses or alongside them. These predictions were confirmed in two empirical experiments. We therefore suggest that PM should be considered to result from the interplay between bottom-up triggering of PM responses by perceptual input, and top-down monitoring for appropriate cues. We also show how the model can be extended to simulate encoding new intentions and subsequently deactivating them, and consider links between the model's performance and results from neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Behavior
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Neuroimaging / methods
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

SJG is supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.