CIS Ph.D. student Drew Abney has been interviewed for dugdug.com, a science news website that covers intriguing findings across a range of disciplines, including focused coverage of special topics. Recently writers on dugdug.com put together a special series on memory research, and have featured some work by Drew. Drew’s recently published paper is on “prospective memory”:
Prospective memory – a type of memory – involves remembering to perform an intended task at a particular event or at a certain time in the future. For example, when doing your bills on Sunday night, you might plan on putting the paid bill in the mailbox on your way to work on Monday morning. Most of the time we remember, but of course, we sometimes forget to mail out the paid bill. Importantly, in addition to intending to mail the paid bill, we are also engaged in other intended tasks and activities, and thus, our attention will not always be directed to one particular thing throughout our day.
Researchers studying prospective memory are interested in the factors that lead us to remember or forget to perform an intended action, the potential processes that facilitate these outcomes, and from an applied angle, which populations show deficits and differences.
This particular study attempted to address the interactive effects of a number of factors that most likely contribute to differing degrees of successful prospective memory performance. Specifically, we investigated how the amount of attention or effort you were giving to other parts of the experiment, beyond those of remembering to perform an intended task, affected memory performance. Going back to the example of mailing the paid bill, maybe your Monday morning was a busy one, and thus, your attention was directed to other tasks such as getting the kids to the bus stop or reviewing your notes for an upcoming meeting. Having your attention directed elsewhere might contribute to the likelihood of successfully performing the intended task of mailing out the paid bill on your way to work. Even more, we further asked how these attentional effects might interact with different types of environmental situations.
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(Drew is also an avid climber, and frequently visits Yosemite from Merced.)