Quick to Act, Quick to Forget: The Link Between Impulsiveness and Prospective Memory


  • This research was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship to C. Cuttler from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.


Several traits of impulsiveness (e.g. lack of planning and perseverance, difficulty focusing attention) seem intimately connected to the skills required for successful prospective memory performance. This is the first study to examine whether the various inter-correlated dimensions of impulsiveness are related to problems with prospective memory. Undergraduate students (N = 184) completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale 11, the Prospective Memory Questionnaire, the Prospective and Retrospective Memory Questionnaire, and two objective prospective memory tests. Results revealed consistent correlations between the various dimensions of impulsiveness (attentional, motor, non-planning) and self-reported problems with prospective memory. Subsequent regression analyses indicated that attentional impulsiveness is a unique predictor of self-reported problems with internally cued prospective memory, and non-planning impulsiveness is a unique predictor of self-reported problems with episodic and overall prospective memory. Similarly, findings from the objective prospective tests showed that non-planning impulsiveness was related to worse performance on the two prospective memory tests. Whereas non-planning impulsiveness was also related to using fewer prospective memory-aiding strategies, mediation analyses showed that use of these strategies does not account for any of the detected relationships. Because the findings suggest that a failure to plan does not underlie the detected effects, other potential explanations for the relationships are discussed. Copyright © 2013 European Association of Personality Psychology