The role of attention allocation policies on prospective memory and ongoing task interference
Meeks, Joseph Thadeus
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The ability to maintain and to eventually fulfill previously-formed intentions while concurrently performing other ongoing activities is called prospective memory. Often these intentions are cued by events in the environment which is an area of investigation labeled event-based prospective memory. Many researchers in this field propose that detecting certain types of event-based cues requires attentional resources that might otherwise be allocated. The current study investigated how particular conditions (cue importance, cue specificity, and cue reminders) alter the relative amount of attention that is given to the intention during the encoding phase of the experiment, and by tradeoffs, to the ongoing task by obtaining two different interference measures (i.e., slowed responding). These two latency variables, labeled task and cue interference, represent the general slowing on the ongoing task and the slowing to successful cue detection, respectively. If more attention is devoted to the prospective memory task, then there should be more slowing on the ongoing task and less slowing in recognizing the cue. By contrast, if more attention is devoted to the ongoing task, there should be less slowing on the ongoing task but more slowing on cue detection. In the present experiments, this tradeoff effect resulted under certain manipulations which suggests that these two tasks compete for resources. However, boundary conditions were also found. The results are discussed in the general framework of prospective memory research and working memory ability.