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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploratory studies of prospective memory in adults Miller, Jo Ann


Prospective memory refers to remembering to carry out an intended or planned action, such as keeping a doctor's appointment or telling a friend about an upcoming party. Despite its importance in everyday life, prospective memory has received little empirical or theoretical attention. Rather, much of the literature has focused on retrospective memory, that is, memory for information learnt in the past. The current literature on prospective memory addresses five aspects that are necessary for carrying out an intended action. These are (a) formulating the plan; (b) having the knowledge necessary to carry out the plan; (c) remembering the plan at the appropriate time; (d) carrying out the plan; and (e) remembering that the plan has been performed. The literature also raises three fundamental questions. Namely, whether prospective and retrospective memory involve different processes, whether self-report and behavioral measures of prospective memory are correlated, and whether prospective memory performance varies as a function of age. These questions were the focus of the exploratory studies presented in this dissertation. The first three studies involved the development of a memory diary, a memory questionnaire, and a metamemory questionnaire, respectively. These instruments were used in the fourth and fifth studies. Studies 4 and 5 also included behavioral measures of prospective memory and objective measures of retrospective memory. The fourth study examined how community-dwelling adults feel about, and use, their memory on a daily basis. In accordance with previous research, no age differences were observed on the behavioral measures of prospective memory. Moreover, performance on the self-report measures did not differ as a function of age. As hypothesized, age was correlated with performance on a retrospective memory task. The fifth study involved an extension and replication of Study 4, with the major addition being the use of several standard laboratory tests to assess retrospective memory. This study revealed several interesting findings. First, in contrast to previous studies, performance on some retrospective memory tasks was related to performance on some prospective memory tasks. Second, by and large, self-report and behavioral measures of prospective memory were not correlated. Third, performance on the prospective memory tasks (both self-report and behavioral) did not vary as a function of age, although performance ' on the retrospective memory tasks was clearly age related. The implications of this research are discussed.

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