Investigating the effects of ongoing task bias on prospective memory
Strickland, L and Loft, S and Heathcote, A, Investigating the effects of ongoing task bias on prospective memory, Quarterly journal of experimental psychology, 73, (9) pp. 1495-1513. ISSN 1747-0218 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Event-based prospective memory (PM) refers to the cognitive processes required to perform a planned action upon encountering a future event. Event-based PM studies engage participants in an ongoing task (e.g., lexical decision making) with an instruction to make an alternative PM response to certain items (e.g., items containing ‘tor’). The Prospective Memory Decision Control model (PMDC), which provides a quantitative process account of ongoing task and PM decisions, proposes that PM and ongoing-task processes compete in a race to threshold. We use PMDC to test whether, as proposed by the Delay Theory of PM costs, PM can be improved by biasing decision making against a specific ongoing-task choice, so that the PM process is more likely to win the race. We manipulated bias in a lexical decision task with an accompanying PM intention. In one condition, a bias was induced against deciding items were words, and in another a bias was induced against deciding items were non-words. The bias manipulation had little effect on PM accuracy but did affect the types of ongoing-task responses made on missed PM trials. PMDC fit the observed data well and verified that the bias manipulation had the intended effect on ongoing-task processes. Further, although simulations from PMDC could produce an improvement in PM accuracy due to ongoing task bias, this required implausible parameter values. These results illustrate the importance of understanding event-based PM in terms of a comprehensive model of the processes that interact to determine all aspects of task performance.