UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The cognitive processes involved in prospective memory task execution : response switching from an ongoing activity to a planned task Lark, Michelle L. Crease


Prospective memory is the cognitive function used for carrying out planned tasks upon the occurrence of an appropriate cue. Prospective memory tasks are uniquely challenging because they typically take place while we are otherwise engaged in another ongoing activity. In order to carry out a planned task, three retrieval stages are required: cue noticing, meaning the cue is processed by the sensory system and perceived as a distinct entity; recognition of cue-plan relevance, meaning that the representation of the plan is activated in connection with the cue; and response switching, meaning ongoing activity responding is interrupted and the planned task response is executed. Previous prospective memory research has focused on manipulations and theoretical explanations most relevant to the first two stages. The research presented in this dissertation examined the cognitive processes involved in response switching. In Experiments 1 and 2, a prospective memory task was embedded within the encoding phase (Experiment 1) or retrieval phase (Experiment 2) of a recognition memory test. I examined the pattern of processing for ongoing activity words immediately preceding and following a prospective memory task response. Participants responded more slowly, and recognition test performance was lower, for words immediately following prospective memory task responses. Experiment 3 tested the possibility that the proactive effects observed in Experiments 1 and 2 were a result of processing a distinctive stimulus. For words immediately following distinctive stimuli, participants responded more slowly, but there was little influence on recognition test performance. In Experiments 4a and 4b, the degree of overlap in the processing required for the ongoing activity and the prospective memory task cue was manipulated. Participants showed larger proactive effects when there was a greater degree of overlap. The goal of Experiment 5 was to explore how subliminal primes preceding the prospective memory task cue would influence proactive effects due to response switching. The results showed that category primes produce larger proactive effects compared to repetition primes. Taken together, these findings support the assumption that two mechanisms identified in the task-switching literature, task-set configuration and task-set inertia, are involved response switching in prospective memory task retrieval.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International