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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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caitlin E. V. Mahy.

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Funding

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.

Appendices

Appendix

Participant Questionnaire

Forced choice responses are indicated in bold.

  1. 1.

    Please describe what you had to do in the lexical decision task. If participant did not describe the lexical decision task rules and the rule of pressing the ‘9’ key when they saw an animal word, the experimenter followed-up with probes: (1) What were you supposed to do in the lexical decision task? (2) Was there something else you had to do in the lexical decision task? (3) What were you supposed to do when you saw an animal word? (Administered verbally by the experimenter).

  2. 2.

    Did you think about pressing the button for an animal word during the problem-solving/ item categorization task? YES / NO.

    • If so, how many times?

  1. 3.

    Was the intention to press a button when you saw an animal word always present in your mind? YES / NO

  2. 4.

    On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (extremely), how tired are you right now?

  3. 5.

    On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (extremely), how interesting was the problem-solving/ item categorization task?

  4. 6.

    On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (extremely), how interesting did you find the lexical decision task?

  5. 7.

    How old are you?

  6. 8.

    What is your birth date?

  7. 9.

    What is your biological sex? MALE / FEMALE

  8. 10.

    What is your academic major?

  9. 11.

    What is your ethnic background? Please check all that apply.

    • White

    • Black or African American

    • Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish

    • Asian

    • Asian Indian

    • Hawaiian Native

    • Pacific Islander

    • Middle Eastern

    • Alaskan Native or American Indian

    Other group (please specify) : __________.

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Mahy, C.E.V., Schnitzspahn, K., Hering, A. et al. 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. Psychological Research 82, 607–616 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0841-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0841-2