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The Role of Interruptions and Contextual Associations in Delayed-Execute Prospective Memory

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Summary

We conducted three experiments to examine the dynamics of a delayed-execute prospective memory task involving task interruptions. In the delayed-execute paradigm, participants must delay a response until some future condition is met. After an intention was formed to a salient cue, an interruption reduced prospective memory relative to a no-interruption condition. Prospective memory for cues encountered during an interrupting task was worse than for cues occurring before an interruption, but the location of the cue in either the ongoing task or the interruption did not affect prospective memory. Importantly, reinstating the prevailing context after the interruption alleviated the negative influence of the interruption. Providing participants with information about the future context for making the delayed-execute response also alleviated some of these deficits presumably because participants could encode more specific features of the performance context. These results highlight the potential importance of contextual associations and reminders in completing everyday intentions successfully. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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