- Event-based prospective memory:
- A form of prospective memory in which some event provides the cue to perform a given action.
- Implementation intentions:
- Plans spelling out in detail how individuals are going to achieve the goals they have set themselves.
- Knowledge about one’s own memory and an ability to regulate its functioning.
- Prospective memory:
- Remembering to carry out some intended action in the absence of any explicit reminder to do so; see retrospective memory.
- Retrospective memory:
- Memory for people, words, and events experienced in the past.
- Time-based prospective memory:
- A form of prospective memory in which time is the cue indicating that a given action needs to be performed.
Research activity: assess your prospective memory
Test your prospective memory! Make a list of all the things you need to remember to do over the course of a week and try to remember to do those things without the use of external aids, e.g. diaries, memo boards, reminders from other people. If there aren’t many things you have to remember try creating some, e.g. phone a friend at a specific time on a certain day. At the end of the week count up the number of things you remembered to do. Are there things that you forgot to do? Is there a pattern to the things you forget?
- Techniques for pilots to avoid lapses in monitoring and prospective memory.
- Zogg et al. (2012). The role of prospective memory in medication adherence: A review of an emerging literature.
- A Science Daily article about prospective memory.
- Dr Mark McDaniel’s lab at Washington University: A brief introduction to prospective memory and information about the research carried out there.
Please find below biographies of four important researchers in the field of memory: R. Key Dismukes, Marc McDaniel, Gilles O. Einstein, and Rebekah Smith.
R. Key Dismukes
Robert Key Dismukes was born on June 21, 1943 in Dhlonega, Georgia. In his early teens, while an indifferent student, two influences shaped what was to become a career that cuts across traditional boundaries. He became an amateur radio operator, which forced Dismukes to study and drew him to major in physics at the local small college. While serving in the Army after his Master’s degree, he had time to read and explore other domains and became interested in questions about the human mind and in issues concerning the interaction of science and technology with society.
The other influence in high school was a teacher who encouraged him to think of himself as a writer. Part of his work in each of the fields in which he has conducted research is to write about science in ways accessible to the general public. This writing also addresses ethical and social questions such as, “What are the responsibilities of scientists for the uses to which their research is put?”
After his tour of military duty he went to Penn State for his Ph.D. in biophysics and then did a postdoctoral fellowship with Sol Snyder in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. During this period he also wrote a series of “news and views” articles about neuroscience for Nature. He continued doing neuroscience research for several more years but was increasingly drawn to work at the interface of science and society. He received a fellowship to spend six months at the Institute for Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences and was deeply influenced by the incisive way the philosophers there parsed complicated issues. He began the series of articles he has written over the years about the interaction of science and society in areas ranging from molecular biology to cognitive science.
Dismukes took a job as the study director for the Committee on Vision at the National Academy of Sciences—National Research Council, which gave him a chance to work with scientists from diverse disciplines on socio-technical issues such as the effect of prolonged video viewing on workers. From there he was drawn into jobs managing research organizations for another 8 years, but he discovered that he missed the excitement of doing research himself, so Dismukes decided to retool by combining his long-term love of aviation with what he had learned reading cognitive psychology in recent years.He was the 2005 recipient of the NASA Honors Award, Exceptional Achievement Medal, the 2003 AMES Honor Award for mentorship, and the 2000 AMES Group Achievement Award.
Dismuke’s experiences as a pilot—he is a sailplane instructor and holds airline transport pilot ratings—made him realize that the cockpit is an ideal setting for studying cognition in the wild. Flying is even more demanding of cognitive skills than of sensory-motor skills. Pilots must maintain an accurate mental model of dynamic situations, balance competing goals, make appropriate decisions, and perform procedural tasks with little margin for error. However, it is not possible to understand the skilled performance of expert operators using any single research approach. Thus, Dismukes and his colleagues combine several approaches: ethnographic field observations and interviews (which require deep domain expertise on the part of the observers), analysis of accident reports, well-controlled laboratory studies, and flight simulation.
Although many might consider this “applied” research, Dismukes has discovered that studying skilled performance in real-world settings uncovers fundamental questions that are not identified if one is confined to laboratory settings. For example, his analysis of accident reports revealed that inadvertent forgetting to perform a flight-critical task has contributed to many catastrophic accidents. His research group was already studying prospective memory, an exciting field that has mushroomed in recent years. However, existing research has focused heavily on two types of prospective memory—event-based and time-based—and laboratory studies have mainly studied performance of unfamiliar tasks.
His research group’s ethnographic research revealed that interruptions, frequent in real-world tasks, often result in expert operators forgetting to resume interrupted tasks after the end of the interruption. They theorized reasons for these prospective memory failures and designed a laboratory paradigm to test their ideas. Among their findings was that conventional laboratory paradigms fail to capture a frequent characteristic of real-world prospective memory situations: failure to fully encode an explicit intention to complete a deferred task. In the case of interruptions, this seems to be because attention is abruptly diverted to the source of the interruption.
Dismukes finds that moving back and forth among diverse research approaches both raises fundamental questions that might otherwise be missed and makes research more relevant to real-world issues. In some sense he sees himself as a dilettante, moving from topic to topic, but he rather likes the appellation (in the sense of a lover of an art or science), and this approach serves his goals of having fun and provoking scientists to think about their fields in new ways.
Dismukes, R. K., Berman, B. A., & Loukopoulos, L. D. (2007). The limits of expertise: Rethinking pilot error and the causes of airline accidents. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
Dodhia, R. D., & Dismukes, R. K. (2009). Interruptions create prospective memory tasks. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(1), 73–89.
Dismukes, R. K. (2007). Prospective memory in aviation and everyday settings. In M. Kliegel, M. A. McDaniel, and G. O. Einstein (Eds.), Prospective memory: Cognitive, neuroscience, developmental, and applied perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Dismukes, R. K. (1979). What should society expect from scientists? Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 35(9), 19–21. Reprinted in Current (1980) 220:23.
Mark McDaniel was born in Lafayette, Indiana. He received a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and psychology from Oberlin College (in Ohio) in 1974, his Master’s in 1978 and his Doctorate in experimental psychology with a quantitative psychology minor in 1980, both from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. For a year he was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories before joining the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 1981. In 1987, he accepted a position at Purdue University as an Associate Professor. After 7 years he moved to the University of New Mexico, where he served for 2 years as chair of the department, until being recruited to Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. Since 2011 he has been Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education.
McDaniel, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, won the Heyers-Bowers Industrial Psychology Award in 1978, in addition to multiple other honors. In 2008 he was made a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. Since 2012 he has been President, American Psychological Association, Division 3.
McDaniel’s goal is to work at the intersection between theoretical and applied considerations in the field of memory. McDaniel is probably best known for his work in the realm of prospective memory. A common and pervasive memory task in daily activities is remembering to perform some intended action at a particular point in the future (termed prospective memory in the literature). Despite the widely recognized importance of prospective memory in everyday life, this topic was virtually ignored by memory researchers as recently as 20 years ago. The paucity of research was in part due to an absence of theoretical frameworks to guide prospective memory research and a lack of laboratory paradigms for investigating prospective memory.
In the past 18 years, he and Gilles Einstein have developed several fruitful laboratory paradigms to study prospective memory. Their findings have differentiated and identified different types of prospective memory, illuminated basic dynamics of retrieval that support prospective memory, demonstrated the importance of encoding processes in prospective remembering, documented counterintuitive effects of reminders, and revealed surprising effects of aging. His investigations of prospective memory and aging have recently examined neuropsychological and genetic (APOE polymorphisms) influences.
McDaniel also has a long-standing interest in the kinds of encoding processes that mediate memory, beginning with a paper he published in graduate school with Mike Masson. The foundation of much of his work in this area is the theoretical view that recall of the elements of an event is supported both by rich encoding of the individual features of the elements and by encoding relationships among elements. For instance, he has formulated and tested theoretical accounts of the effects of bizarreness on memory, the word frequency effect in recall, the generation effect, hypermnesia, and encoding difficulty effects (memory for items that require more effortful processing to comprehend).
His interests include extending the basic work outlined above to educationally relevant materials and tasks. Expanding his work on encoding difficulty, McDaniel and colleagues developed a more general framework, the Material Appropriate Processing (MAP) framework, that helps anticipate and understand the effects of various study activities on different types of prose materials. For example, he has applied the MAP framework to the mnemonic effects of outlining/embedded questions and illustrations. More recently he has addressed how encoding difficulty can enhance recall for low-ability readers and interact with one’s interest in a text passage to modulate recall. Other educationally relevant work includes a series of studies on elaborative study techniques, such as the keyword method and elaborative interrogation, and on associative learning dynamics for acquiring coding schemes for speech protheses.
Synchronous with the above work are his efforts in understanding the retrieval processes, especially those involved in recall. This research includes the development of a relational/item specific account of hypermnesia in free recall. Some of his work in this area has focused on the effects of retrieval on subsequent retention. Currently, in funded projects with Roediger and McDermott, he is extending this basic work to educational and classroom applications (test-enhanced learning project).
In collaboration with Jerry Busemeyer, McDaniel is focusing on human conceptual learning that extends beyond the traditional work on categorization of stimuli based on concrete perceptual features.
McDaniel, M. A., Einstein, G. O., & Jacoby, L. L. (2008). New considerations in aging and memory: The glass may be half full. In F. Craik and T. Salthouse (Eds.), The handbook of aging and cognition (3rd ed.) (pp. 251–310). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
McDaniel, M. A., & Einstein, G. O. (2007). Prospective memory: An overview and synthesisof an emerging field. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
McDaniel, M. A., Roediger, H. L. III, & McDermott, K. B. (2007). Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 200–206.
McDaniel, M. A., & Busemeyer, J. R. (2005). The conceptual basis of function learning and extrapolation: Comparison of rule and associative based models. Psychonomic Bulletin &Review, 12, 24–42.
McDaniel, M. A., & Einstein, G. O. (2005). Material appropriate difficulty: A framework for determining when difficulty is desirable for improving learning. In A. F. Healy (Ed.), Experimental cognitive psychology and its applications (pp. 73–85). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Gilles O. Einstein
Born in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Gil Einstein moved to the United States at the age of 4 where he grew up in New Jersey. He became an American citizen in October, 2004. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College, (a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania) in 1972, he pursued his Doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, which he received in 1977. He interrupted his graduate studies for a year’s leave of absence skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado. A season of working as a ski-lift operator convinced him to return to graduate school and finish his degree. He was heavily influenced both by his mentor at Lafayette College, Burt Cohen, and his supervisor at the University of Colorado, Bill Battig.
In 1977, Einstein joined the faculty at Furman University, where he received the Meritorious teaching Award in 1985 and the first annual Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006. In 2014 he was awarded an Association for Psychological Science Mentor Award. He is a general experimental psychologist with special interests in memory and cognition.
Einstein is a Fellow of Divisions 2, 3, and 20 of the American Psychological Association, on the governing board of Division 3, past president of Southeastern Workers in Memory, and he has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Memory Cognition, and Psychology and Aging. He is the author or co-author of over 75 articles, book chapters, and books, and 31 of his co-authors are Furman students. He and Mark McDaniel are authors of two recent books: Memory Fitness: A Guide for Successful Aging (2004) and Prospective Memory: An Overview and Synthesis of an Emerging Field (2007).
Einstein believes strongly that research is an excellent learning experience for undergraduates. His commitment to undergraduate research is reflected in his involvement in national organizations that support and promote research activities for undergraduates. He chaired the Furman Advantage Program for 14 years.
Dr. Einstein and his wife Patty, who graduated from the University of Colorado in psychology and is now a realtor, have a 24-year-old, red-haired daughter named Julie (who is a working and living in Chicago) and a 20-year-old, red-haired daughter named Alex (who is a sophomore at Elon University). They love sports, especially surfing, skiing, soccer, and basketball.
Along with his long-time friend and collaborator (and graduate school buddy), Mark McDaniel, Einstein studies prospective memory (memory for actions to be performed in the future, like remembering to take medication). In contrast to the relatively well-studied retrospective memory (memory for past events), prospective memory necessitates recalling what one must do without an external agent. Einstein’s work supports the notion that to successfully retrieve prospective memories, individuals engage in both automatic and consciously controlled processes. Over the past 15 years, Einstein and his colleagues have attempted to determine the particular processes that support prospective memory, their limitations in real-world situations, and how the ability changes over the lifespan.
Currently he is endeavoring to develop an intervention encouraging patients to better adhere to their anti-hypertensive medication schedule by shifting the burden of remembering from self-initiated processes dependent on working memory to environmentally-supported associative processes, which occur much more automatically—even in the elderly.
More broadly, he and Mark McDaniel seek to identify easy-to-use strategies that can be used to improve all types of memory in everyday settings and exercises (both physical and mental), as well as drugs and nutritional supplements, that might be able to preserve and enhance memory abilities. He and his collaborators also study the symptoms and risk factors related to Alzheimer’s disease in an effort to help sufferers, and their caretakers, cope with the cognitive and mnemonic deficits.
Einstein, G. O., & McDaniel, M. A. (1990). Normal aging and prospective memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 16, 717–726.
Einstein, G. O., & McDaniel, M. A. (2004). Memory fitness: A guide for successful aging. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Einstein, G. O., McDaniel, M. A., Thomas, R., Mayfield, S., Shank, H., Morrisette, N., & Breneiser, J. (2005). Multiple processes in prospective memory retrieval: Factors determining monitoring versus spontaneous retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 327–342.
Rebekah Elizabeth Smith was born in Beirut, Lebanon, on December 24, 1965. She and her brothers, Christopher and Gabriel, grew up in New Orleans where her father, Marcus, is a member of the English faculty at Loyola University and where her mother, Sarah, is currently director of the Academic Enrichment Program and Disability Services, also at Loyola University.
Rebekah received her B.S. in mathematics from Tulane University in 1988 before entering the graduate program in mathematics at Brown University. When Rebekah began to question whether life as a mathematician was really the right path for her, a roommate recommended that Rebekah consider a career in psychology, as this was a way to use her analytic skills in a more directly applied venue. Rebekah returned to New Orleans and enrolled in an Introductory Psychology class at Loyola. Reading the chapter on memory in the psychology text was all that was needed; she was hooked.
After taking additional psychology courses at Loyola, Rebekah moved to North Carolina and entered the graduate program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Following completion of her Master’s degree, Rebekah spent a year working as a research coordinator on a project investigating aging and prospective memory that was being conducted by Gilles Einstein at Furman University. Prospective memory, which involves remembering to perform an action in the future, became a central focus in Rebekah’s research when she returned to UNC-G. Rebekah received a Graduate Research Scholarship in 1998 from the American Psychological Foundation and the Councils of Graduate Departments of Psychology to support her dissertation research, which proposed an alternative explanation for how we complete prospective memory tasks.
Rebekah completed her Ph.D. in 1999 in cognitive psychology under the direction of R. Reed Hunt and went on to a postdoctoral position in the labs of Randall Engle and Christopher Hertzog at the Georgia Institute of Technology, during which time she was invited to participate in the Summer Institute on Aging Research conducted by the National Institute on Aging and the Brookdale Foundation in 2000.
When the opportunity arose to apply her mathematical background in a postdoctoral position focusing on cognitive aging and mathematical modeling with Ute Johanna Bayen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rebekah returned to North Carolina. After her first year as a postdoctoral associate at UNC-CH, Rebekah was awarded an Individual National Research Service award from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Rebekah also received the Gordon H. DeFriese award from the UNC-CH Institute on Aging. Following completion of her postdoctoral training, Rebekah joined the research faculty at UNC-CH. In January 2006, Rebekah and Reed, now married, moved to Texas where they are both on the faculty at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
During the year that Rebekah worked with Gil Einstein, they conducted several experiments investigating the relationship between aging, capacity, and prospective memory performance. While working on this research Rebekah noticed that the older adults were much less likely than younger adults to have any "free moments" during which they were not actively dealing with the ongoing tasks. Reflecting on her own prospective memory failures, she noticed that she was more likely to forget intended actions when she was particularly busy. These observations led to her to consider that prospective memory requires capacity, a conclusion that would not shock the layperson or many researchers in the area of prospective memory. However, extant theories of prospective memory at the time did not include a sufficient role for capacity determinants of performance.
Eventually, Rebekah proposed a new theory of prospective memory in which capacity is required for preparatory attentional processes that must be engaged in order to successfully perform the prospective memory task (Smith, 2003, 2008). According to the Preparatory Attentional and Memory Processes (PAM) theory, these required preparatory attentional processes are resource demanding and, while they can involve explicit strategic monitoring for the target event, the preparatory processes may sometimes involve much more subtle processes needed for maintaining the intention. In addition, capacity is required for the performance or scheduling of actions after the task has been brought to mind by an external signal. In collaboration with Ute Bayen, Rebekah developed a mathematical model based upon the PAM theory (Smith & Bayen, 2004) and has applied the model to begin investigating how factors such as cognitive aging and individual differences in working memory capacity influence the cognitive processes involved in prospective memory.
In addition to her primary line of research, Rebekah, in collaboration with Reed Hunt, has pursued several issues concerning the role of organizational and distinctive processing in memory. One of the projects involved the false memory effect obtained in the Deese/ Roediger and McDermott paradigm. Rebekah discovered that presenting visual study presentation reduced false memories relative to auditory study presentation. Rebekah went on to explain this modality effect in the context of organizational and distinctive processing and demonstrated that the principles of organizational and distinctive processing offer a general explanation of the high rate of intrusions in the paradigm (Smith & Hunt, 1998). In addition, Rebekah has investigated the role of organization and distinctiveness in autobiographical memory, retrieval-induced forgetting, indirect memory tests, and aging.
Smith, R. E. (2003). The cost of remembering to remember in event-based prospective memory: Investigating the capacity demands of delayed intention performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29, 347–361.
Smith, R. E. (2008). Connecting the past and the future: Attention, memory, and delayed intentions. In M. Kliegel, M. A. McDaniel, and G. O. Einstein (Eds.), Prospective memory: Cognitive, neuroscience, developmental, and applied perspectives (pp. 27–50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Smith, R. E., & Bayen, U. J. (2004). A multinomial model of event-based prospective memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 756–777.
Smith, R. E., & Hunt, R. R. (1998). Presentation modality affects false memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5, 710–715.