The role of metacognition in prospective memory: anticipated task demands influence attention allocation strategies

Conscious Cogn. 2013 Sep;22(3):931-43. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.06.006. Epub 2013 Jul 13.


The present study investigates how individuals distribute their attentional resources between a prospective memory task and an ongoing task. Therefore, metacognitive expectations about the attentional demands of the prospective-memory task were manipulated while the factual demands were held constant. In Experiments 1a and 1b, we found attentional costs from a prospective-memory task with low factual demands to be significantly reduced when information about the low to-be-expected demands were provided, while prospective-memory performance remained largely unaffected. In Experiment 2, attentional monitoring in a more demanding prospective-memory task also varied with information about the to-be-expected demands (high vs. low) and again there were no equivalent changes in prospective-memory performance. These findings suggest that attention-allocation strategies of prospective memory rely on metacognitive expectations about prospective-memory task demands. Furthermore, the results suggest that attentional monitoring is only functional for prospective memory to the extent to which anticipated task demands reflect objective task demands.

Keywords: Attention allocation; Metacognition; Monitoring processes; Prospective memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticipation, Psychological*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory, Episodic*