The Dynamic Multiprocess Framework: evidence from prospective memory with contextual variability

Cogn Psychol. 2013 Aug-Sep;67(1-2):55-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2013.07.001. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


The ability to remember to execute delayed intentions is referred to as prospective memory. Previous theoretical and empirical work has focused on isolating whether a particular prospective memory task is supported either by effortful monitoring processes or by cue-driven spontaneous processes. In the present work, we advance the Dynamic Multiprocess Framework, which contends that both monitoring and spontaneous retrieval may be utilized dynamically to support prospective remembering. To capture the dynamic interplay between monitoring and spontaneous retrieval, we had participants perform many ongoing tasks and told them that their prospective memory cue may occur in any context. Following either a 20-min or a 12-h retention interval, the prospective memory cues were presented infrequently across three separate ongoing tasks. The monitoring patterns (measured as ongoing task cost relative to a between-subjects control condition) were consistent and robust across the three contexts. There was no evidence for monitoring prior to the initial prospective memory cue; however, individuals who successfully spontaneously retrieved the prospective memory intention, thereby realizing that prospective memory cues could be expected within that context, subsequently monitored. These data support the Dynamic Multiprocess Framework, which contends that individuals will engage monitoring when prospective memory cues are expected, disengage monitoring when cues are not expected, and that when monitoring is disengaged, a probabilistic spontaneous retrieval mechanism can support prospective remembering.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Intentions; Monitoring; Prospective memory; Spontaneous retrieval.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult