Why are you late? Investigating the role of time management in time-based prospective memory

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2016 Aug;145(8):1049-61. doi: 10.1037/xge0000183. Epub 2016 Jun 23.


Time-based prospective memory tasks (TBPM) are those that are to be performed at a specific future time. Contrary to typical laboratory TBPM tasks (e.g., hit the Z key every 5 min), many real-world TBPM tasks require more complex time-management processes. For instance, to attend an appointment on time, one must estimate the duration of the drive to the appointment and then use this estimate to create and execute a secondary TBPM intention (e.g., "I need to start driving by 1:30 to make my 2:00 appointment on time"). Future under- and overestimates of drive time can lead to inefficient TBPM performance with the former lending to missed appointments and the latter to long stints in the waiting room. Despite the common occurrence of complex TBPM tasks in everyday life, to date, no studies have investigated how components of time management, including time estimation, affect behavior in such complex TBPM tasks. Therefore, the current study aimed to investigate timing biases in both older and younger adults and, further, to determine how such biases along with additional time management components including planning and plan fidelity influence complex TBPM performance. Results suggest for the first time that younger and older adults do not always utilize similar timing strategies, and as a result, can produce differential timing biases under the exact same environmental conditions. These timing biases, in turn, play a vital role in how efficiently both younger and older adults perform a later TBPM task that requires them to utilize their earlier time estimate. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Time Management*
  • Young Adult