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Intentions do not take care of themselves : attentional and cognitive abilities required for prospective remembering Jacova, Claudia

Abstract

The present research focused on event-cued prospective memory (ProM). ProM is becoming aware that some ongoing event signals the need to act upon an intention formed at an earlier time. Two major goals were addressed. One goal was to identify the attentional resources required for processing the ProM event. This goal builds on current theories that understand ProM retrieval as an attention-demanding process. Two experiments manipulated the attentional demands of the ongoing task to selectively constrain resource availability for ProM. The ProM task was to interrupt the ongoing activity if a picture cue was noticed. The cue was embedded in ongoing task trials. In Experiment One, participants performed either a task that required simple speeded responding, or one that required searching for a target letter and matching it to memory. The second task elicited lower levels of ProM than the first. Experiment Two tested the effects of ongoing searching and matching-to-memory separately, by manipulating distractor and target load in a speeded yes/no decision task. Distractor but not target load reduced ProM performance, implicating perceptual search processes in this type of memory. These results were discussed in terms of a link between ProM and attentional selection. The second goal of the present research was to investigate the involvement of top-down thinking processes in ProM. This goal focused on the relationship between ProM and creativity. In Experiment One, performance on two ProM tasks was correlated with performance on two divergent thinking tests. High levels of originality predicted low levels of ProM. In Experiment Two, productions on a verbal divergent thinking test and nonverbal drawing task were scored in terms of originality and flexibility. High levels of originality again predicted low levels of ProM across tasks, but high levels of flexibility predicted high levels of ProM. The interpretation of these results was that thinking in unusual ways may interfere with ProM whereas thinking broadly, in terms of multiple conceptual categories, may facilitate ProM.

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