Monitoring behaviour in a time-based prospective memory task: the involvement of executive functions and time perception

Memory. 2014;22(5):536-52. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2013.801987. Epub 2013 Jun 4.


This study investigated time-based prospective memory (PM) performance in 76 younger and 76 older adults with a time-monitoring task in which participants were required to press a designated key every 5 minutes while watching a movie. Participants were assigned to two conditions, free and fixed monitoring. In free monitoring participants could check a clock when they wanted, but in fixed monitoring they were restricted a maximum of six times every 5 minutes. We also investigated the involvement of time perception, inhibition, and updating in time-based PM performance. We hypothesised that participants with inefficiencies in those three cognitive functions would have less strategic monitoring behaviour and would also be less accurate at the target time. In the free-monitoring condition older adults checked the clock more frequently than younger participants, but presented with a similar pattern of monitoring behaviour and increased their frequency of clock checking closer to the target time. In the fixed-monitoring condition younger participants checked the clock more frequently than older adults and showed a strategic pattern of monitoring. Older adults did not show strategic use of clock checking and their monitoring function remained unchanged. Differences in PM accuracy and monitoring behaviour are discussed according to different involvement of cognitive abilities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Perception*
  • Young Adult