Individual differences in prospective memory performance: A micro and macro-analytic investigation of intention execution and ongoing task cost

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Martin, Jessie
Engle, Randall W.
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Laboratory studies of prospective memory have expanded our understanding about circumstances under which individuals maintain and execute a given prospective memory intention. However, it is only recently that efforts have focused on the role of individual differences in prospective memory performance (Brewer et al., 2010). Specifically, the degree to which individual differences in cognitive ability inform ongoing task performance remains under-investigated. Moreover, the ability to measure the very costs that occur when a prospective memory intention is required has been largely limited to reaction-time difference scores, a method of dubious reliability (Cronbach & Furby, 1970). This study used structural equation modeling to better understand prospective memory performance and the cognitive processes that underlie successful retrieval of an intention. Participants were roughly 300 young adults (age 18-35) from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the greater Atlanta community. Individuals completed a series of cognitive tasks and prospective memory tasks with both focal and non-focal conditions. The results of this study showed that, at the latent level, distinctions between focal and non-focal prospective memory conditions are not as independent as experimental studies have suggested. Specifically, both focal and non-focal task performance was predicted primarily by measures of differences in attention control. Ongoing task costs proved to be even less reliable at the latent level, with the only consistent relationships revealed through the use of bin scores. Further, changes in ongoing task performance with the addition of a prospective memory intention were only related to ability in one set of tasks.
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