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Title: Task interference effects in prospective memory
Author: Lourenço, Joana S.
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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Prospective memory (PM), or remembering to remember, is biq it s i p pl ’s liv s a d PM misses might represent around half of daily memory failures according to recent research. In this thesis, several intention-related factors were investigated in order to clarify and elaborate our understanding of the effects of working memory (WM) and cognitive aging on prospective remembering, increase theoretical clarity regarding the dynamics of the monitoring processes in PM tasks, and investigate the interplay between two qualitatively different PM retrieval processes (i.e., spontaneous retrieval and monitoring). The overall approach was to examine how holding a particular intention affected ongoing task performance in a series of specifically devised laboratory studies of PM. The main findings of this thesis can be summarized as follows: First, encountering intention-related information boosted nonfocal PM performance for low, but not high, WM young adults, and did so without any additional cost to ongoing task performance (Experiment 1). Second, presenting intention-related information as distractor items improved PM performance for older, but not young adults (Experiments 2 and 3). The benefit was most likely due to distractor lures enhancing the salience of the target events and triggering spontaneous retrieval of the intention, or alternatively (or additionally), triggering (functional) monitoring in close proximity to the target events (Experiment 2). Third, practicing the ongoing activity prior to encoding the PM task enhanced nonfocal target detection for high WM young adults, but not for low WM young adults and older adults; practice probably allowed individuals to encode a more elaborate and detailed representation of the PM task (Experiment 4). Fourth, explicit information about target-defining features led to trial-by-trial modulations in task interference as a function of stimulus relevance for the nonfocal PM task. The effect was observed when relevant and irrelevant stimuli varied at random with no cuing (Experiments 5 and 6) and when presentation was blocked (Experiment 5), and was most likely associated with the action of top-down attentional control. Fifth, implicit information about the PM task demands also aff ct d pa ticipa ts’ ff t a d s cc ss i the PM task. Moreover, experience with the PM targets triggered local changes in attention allocation when actual demands were higher than expected (Experiment 7). And sixth, target repetition within a set boosted PM performance by stimulating retrieval through spontaneous retrieval processes, and optimized performance relative to when retrieval relied mostly on monitoring processes alone (Experiment 8). In summary, the present work uncovered several factors that have the potential to boost prospective remembering, as well as influence the extent to which monitoring processes are engaged and/or the type of processing required to support PM retrieval.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology