The Influence of Task Complexity on Event-based Prospective Memory and Task Performance Australian College of Applied Psychology
Event-based prospective memory was evaluated in an experiment to determine the effects of task complexity on the ability of individuals to recall previously intended actions. Alongside this evaluation we attempted to analyse the affects of task complexity on an individual's overall performance of an ongoing task. Participants were required to undergo a series of word trials and to make judgments on each, embedded within these trials were prospective memory cues which needed to be identified by the participant. The results were consistent with previous evidence of prospective memory and confirmed the literature on task switching requiring cognitive resources. Consequently, event-based prospective memory and task performance of ongoing activities is influenced by the demands of task complexity.
The Influence of Task Complexity on Event-based Prospective Memory and Task Performance
Prospective memory refers to remembering to perform a certain action at a later point in time. Two aspects of prospective memory have been established as time-based and event-based. Time-based prospective memory relies on using time as a reminder to perform previously intended actions. For example, being aware that it is 7:00pm reminds you to take the bread you are baking out of the oven. Event-based prospective memory is based on using environmental cues to remind ourselves to perform the intended task, examples of this could be leaving a bag of garbage by the front door as a reminder to take out the garbage bins for weekly collection, or passing an office supply store on your way home could serve as a good cue to buy more ink for your printer (McDaniels & Einstein, 2007). Event-based prospective memory is concurrent with the study we have undertaken here. In order to successfully apply either aspect of prospective memory one must fulfill certain conditions (i.e., passing the office supply store). Being able to recognise that certain conditions need to be fulfilled in order to perform the intended task is often viewed as the principle reason that prospective memories may differ from retrospective memories (Marsh, Hancock & Hicks, 2002).
The motive for individuals creating memories to perform tasks in the future and not do so in the present is that individuals often have many tasks and activities to undergo on a daily basis and must prioritise. Procedures used in prospective memory studies such as the standard Einstein-McDaniel paradigm (Marsh, Hancock & Hicks, 2002), requires participants to engage in an ongoing activity. Before commencement of the ongoing activity, participants are informed that during the activity they will be presented with specific cues which they will be required to identify. This particular paradigm focuses on visual and auditory ongoing tasks such as recognising particular images or words. Previous studies on prospective memory have employed this procedure. One study used the ongoing task of having individuals identify whether or not specific words contained long-E sounds or whether the word represented something living or not in a series of trials (Marsh, Hancock & Hicks 2002). Another study used the ongoing activity of having to record the pleasantness of particular words (Hicks, Marsh & Russell, 2000). Using this procedure, prospective memory is then examined by the participants ability to recognise a cue within the ongoing activity, examples of these cues could be to identify an animal word or a word ending in a specific letter.
Two major theories aim to explain the way in which we retrieve prospective memories: the preparatory attentional and memory processes (PAM) theory and the multiprocess theory. PAM theory argues that in order to retrieve a prospective memory, resource-consuming attentional processes must be engaged. These...
References: Harrison T.L. & Einstein G.O. (2010). Prospective memory: Are preparatory attentional processes necessary for a single focal cue?. Memory & Cognition. 38 (7), pp.860-867
Marsh R.L., Hancock T.W. & Hicks J.L., (2002). The demands of an ongoing activity influence the success of event-based prospective memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 9 (3), pp.604-610
McDaniel M.A., Einstein G.O.(2007). Prospective memory: An overview and synthesis of an emerging field. Sage Publications
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