Psychological Research

, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 607–616 | Cite as

The delay period as an opportunity to think about future intentions: Effects of delay length and delay task difficulty on young adult’s prospective memory performance

  • Caitlin E. V. MahyEmail author
  • Katharina Schnitzspahn
  • Alexandra Hering
  • Jacqueline Pagobo
  • Matthias Kliegel
Original Article


The current study examined the impact of length and difficulty of the delay task on young adult’s event-based prospective memory (PM). Participants engaged in either a short (2.5 min) or a long (15 min) delay that was filled with either a simple item categorization task or a difficult cognitive task. They also completed a questionnaire on whether they thought about the PM intention during the delay period and how often they thought about it. Results revealed that participants’ PM was better after a difficult delay task compared to an easy delay task. Participants thought about the PM intention more often during the difficult delay task than during the easy delay task. PM performance was positively related to participants’ reports of how many times they thought about their intentions. The important role of delay task difficulty in allowing or preventing individuals from refreshing their future intentions is discussed.



Preparation of the manuscript was partially funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada Discovery Grant (RGPIN-2015-03774) and Swiss Government Scholarship to CEVM. MK acknowledges funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The authors wish to thank Chirine Ajram, Joelle Barthassat, Katelyn Brausewetter, Riley Brennan, Malik Djela, Alison O’Connor, and Delphine Paumier for their assistance with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (Grant Number: RGPIN-2015-03774 to Caitlin Mahy).

Conflict of interest

Caitlin Mahy, Katharina Schnitzspahn, Alexandra Hering, Jacqueline Pagobo, and Matthias Kliegel declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitlin E. V. Mahy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katharina Schnitzspahn
    • 2
  • Alexandra Hering
    • 3
  • Jacqueline Pagobo
    • 1
  • Matthias Kliegel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt CatharinesUSA
  2. 2.University of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  3. 3.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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