Published for the European Society for Cognitive Psychology by L. Erlbaum Associates
European Journal of Cognitive Psychology vol:11 issue:2 pages:219-237
Time-based prospective memory is assumed to involve more self-initiated activities than event-based prospective memory. As age negatively affects self-initiated activities, older participants will show more prospective-memory deterioration than younger participants in time-based tasks. Einstein, McDaniel, Richardson, Guynn, and Cunfer (1995) indeed observed such a decrement in time-based prospective memory while d'Ydewalle, Utsi, and Brunfaut (1996) obtained a better time-based than event-based prospective memory among elderly. The on-going concurrent activity in Einstein et al. (1995) involved answering general questions, whereas d'Ydewalle et al. (1996) used a face-identification task. In an attempt to explain the discrepant results, the present experiment compares time- and event-based memory with young and older participants using the two types of on-going task. However, the better performance of the older participants in the time-based prospective memory task is obtained in the two on-going tasks. A difference in timing constraints in the procedure may explain why the older participants in Einstein et al. (1995) did perform more poorly in the time-based task, whereas our ageing participants did not show such a deterioration, suggesting that the slowing down of mental activities may provide a better explanation than the increasing lack of self-initiated activities by the elderly. All age effects in prospective-memory performance disappear when performance on the target items (i.e. items where a prospective-memory response is required) in the on-going task is taken into account. We emphasise the need to study trade-offs in prospective-memory research as a prospective-memory task is always embedded in another (on-going) activity.