The effect of contextual cues on prospective memory accuracy and cost to the ongoing task
The current experiment, which builds upon previous research showing that the use of contextual information can have a significant impact on cost to the ongoing task in a prospective memory paradigm, included three groups of participants: a prospective memory context condition, a prospective memory no context condition, and a control condition that only carried out the ongoing task. All three conditions completed an ongoing trivia task and both prospective memory conditions had the prospective memory task of having to remember to touch four target words that were imbedded in the trivia task. In the prospective memory context condition participants were given the ongoing task trial windows in which the target words would appear. Prospective memory performance, ongoing task accuracy, and ongoing task response times were analyzed to determine if there was a significant difference in performance and cost to the ongoing task when ongoing task trial numbers provide contextual information relevant to the prospective memory task. The results indicated that both prospective memory conditions exhibited a cost to the ongoing task relative to the control group, but the pattern of cost differed between the two groups. Specifically the context group only showed a significant cost within the target context window, while the no context group showed a cost throughout the second block of trials. This pattern indicates that being able to anticipate the occurrence of the prospective memory target events through the use of the target window information enabled the context group to reduce the cost to the ongoing task.