Adult age differences in interference from a prospective-memory task: a diffusion model analysis

Psychon Bull Rev. 2013 Dec;20(6):1266-73. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0451-y.


People often slow down their ongoing activities when they must remember an intended action, known as the cost or interference effect of prospective memory (PM). Only a few studies have examined adult age differences in PM interference, and the specific reasons underlying such differences are not well understood. The authors used a model-based approach to reveal processes underlying PM interference and age differences in these processes. Older and younger adults first performed a block of an ongoing lexical decision task alone. An embedded event-based PM task was added in a second block. Simultaneously accounting for the changes in response time distributions and error rates induced by the PM task, Ratcliff's (Psychological Review 85:59-108, 1978) diffusion model was used to decompose the nonlinear combination of speed and accuracy into psychologically meaningful components. Remembering an intention not only reduced processing efficiency in both age groups, but also prolonged peripheral nondecision times and induced response cautiousness. Overall, the findings suggest that there are multiple, but qualitatively similar factors underlying PM task interference in both age groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult