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Cues and episodic prospective memory task retrieval Gao, Jie

Abstract

According to one theory, the discrepancy-attribution theory, episodic prospective memory task retrieval involves a discrepancy-attribution mechanism. It is assumed that planning activities prime the representation of the retrieval cues involved in a prospective memory task. Therefore, when those cues are subsequently encountered - during the retrieval phase, their processing is facilitated, and this facilitation is perceived as oddly fluent, as discrepant with expectations. Previous work has shown that subjects interpret this processing discrepancy in a flexible manner. The main goal of the present study was to investigate the role of discrepancy-attribution in episodic prospective memory task retrieval under conditions where the ongoing task focused either on performance speed or on performance accuracy. I conducted a series of experiments in which the prospective memory task required subjects to press a key on the keyboard when they noticed prospective memory cue words. To produce and manipulate the discrepancy reactions, half of the cue words in each experiment were primed (i.e. preceded by the masked presentation of the same word) and the others were shown without primes. The prospective memory cues were shown either as part of a lexical decision task, which focused on speed, or in the course of an anagram-solving task, which focused on accuracy. The results showed the priming manipulation facilitated prospective memory task performance in all experiments. However, in the experiment where the ongoing task required making lexical decision, subliminally priming prospective memory cues benefited only the speed of making prospective memory responses, but not their accuracy. By contrast, in the anagram-solving task, the accuracy driven task, subliminally priming prospective memory cues facilitated the accuracy of prospective memory responses, but not the speed of those responses. These findings are consistent with the discrepancy-attribution theory, as well as with prior evidence that discrepant reactions tend to be interpreted flexibly, in line with the demands of the ongoing or dominant task.

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