Eye movements provide insights into the conscious use of context in prospective memory

Conscious Cogn. 2017 Jul:52:68-74. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.04.003. Epub 2017 May 2.


Prior research examining the impact of context on prospective memory (PM) has produced mixed results. Our study aimed to determine whether providing progressive context information could increase PM accuracy and reduce costs to ongoing tasks. Seventy-two participants made ongoing true/false judgements for simple sentences while maintaining a PM intention to respond differently to four memorised words. The context condition were informed of the trial numbers where PM targets could appear, and eye-tracking recorded trial number fixation frequency. The context condition showed reduced costs during irrelevant contexts, increased costs during relevant contexts, and had better PM accuracy compared to a standard condition that was not provided with context. The context condition also made an increasing number of trial number fixations leading up to relevant contexts, indicating the conscious use of context. Furthermore, this trial number checking was beneficial to PM, with participants who checked more frequently having better PM accuracy.

Keywords: Context; Eye-tracking; Progressive cueing; Prospective memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult