Term Paper: Prospective Memory and Aging

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Prospective Memory and Aging

Prospective Memory Theories Conflict

Prospective Memory

Prospective Memory in Older Adults

Age Prospective Memory Paradox

Problem Statement Resolved

Four Phases of Prospective Memory

Five Points Supporting Writer's Stance


"Results pertaining to adult age differences in prospective memory performance are conflicting, with some studies reporting no deficits for older adults and others observing significant age-related

(Cohen, Dixon, Lindsay, & Masson, 2003, ¶ 2).

Prospective Memory Theories Conflict

Theories relating to the perspective of how an individual's memory functions, like an individual's perspective on life, can range from reasonably positive to models which are practically negative. In the book, Handbook of Communication and Aging Research, Ann O'Hanlon and Peter Coleman (2004) note that as a person moves chronologically through his life, the physical changes that occur in the individual's face and body old age become increasingly apparent. Unseen factors like a person's memory, albeit, may or may not be readily realized. "In the most positive models of memory functioning with age, slowing of memory is hypothesised to occur as a consequence of inefficient strategies of encoding and retrieval" (O'hanlon & Coleman, p. 40). This model purports that memory functioning deficits occur in the person's later life; however, it proves more positive mnemonic training and other intervention strategies can reportedly off-set those age-related deficits.

A number of pessimistic models of memory functioning in later life, albeit, suggest that a person's memory declines as he ages due to normative, irreversible, unavoidable changes in the mechanics of the individual's mind. This paper which considers both positive and negative perspectives regarding prospective memory investigates: 1) Prospective memory in general; 2) Prospective memory, specifically in older adults; 3) the meaning of the age prospective memory paradox.

Problem Statement

During the past 100 years, researchers have explored absent- mindedness, one form of a failure of prospective memory, with the number of studies devoted to understanding ways aging affects the cognitive processes and neural mechanisms which support prospective memory increasing following the study, "Normal aging and prospective memory," by Gilles O. Einstein and Mark a. McDaniel (1990). Einstein and McDaniel, who examine whether or not prospective memory proves particularly challenging for the elderly, conduct two experiments with young and old subjects and develop a laboratory paradigm for studying prospective memory. During the study, Einstein and McDaniel gave a prospective memory test to both young and old participants. When a target event occurred, the participants performed an action and "three tests of retrospective memory (short-term memory, free recall, and recognition). From the perspective that aging disrupts mainly self-initiated retrieval processes […;] large age-related decrements in prospective memory were anticipated" (Einstein & McDaniel, Abstract). Even though the participants divulged consistent age differences on retrospective memory tests, in regard to prospective memory, both experiments failed to show any age deficits.

The counterintuitive finding that age-related disparities discovered in prospective memory were not significant motivated much of the early work investigating the relationship between aging and prospective memory. In later studies, albeit, the observation of dynamic age-related prospective memory differences motivated researchers to investigate the boundary conditions under which spared and impaired prospective memory occur in older adults (Cabeza, Nyberg, & Park, 2005, p. 246). In light of contemporary considerations contributing to ongoing perceptions regarding prospective memory aging, the writer investigates the problem of whether or not aging adversely affects prospective memory.


Prospective Memory

Declines in a person's memory functioning may involve a number of components and therefore can be explained in ways other than the aging process. "Slowing down the rate of information recall could also reflect qualitative differences or changes in priorities, an increased awareness of the complexities in the material being presented, or both" (Teri et al., as cited in O'hanlon & Coleman, 2004, p. 41). Memory involves much more than merely remembering to or not forgetting to do something as it includes "a complex process incorporating abilities to learn new information (recent memory), remember future events (prospective memory), perform familiar activities (procedural memory)" (Ibid., p. 40). Rather than actually constituting a pathology, when an older individual demonstrate signs absent- mindedness or some other form or prospective memory deficiency, an older person may not be interested a particular subject or merely bored and use the time to ponder subjects he considers more interesting.

Prospective memory constitutes remembering to carry out or complete planned; proposed; projected activities in the future, according to Matthias Kliegel, Mike Martin, Mark a. McDanie, Gilles O. Einstein, and Caroline Moor (2007) in the study, "Realizing Complex Delayed Intentions in Young and Old Adults: the Role of Planning Aids." Gene a. Brewer, Justin B. Knight, Richard L. Marsh, and Nash Unsworth (2010), all with the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, define prospective memory in the journal article, "Individual differences in event-based prospective memory: Evidence for multiple processes supporting cue detection," as the ability to remember to complete task in the future. These authors explain that the primary characteristic of prospective memory is that the retrieval of the intended action must take place without the overt appeal to remember. According to Shayne Loft, Rebecca Kearney, and Roger Remington (2008), all with the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in the study "Is task interference in event-based prospective memory dependent on cue presentation?" prospective memory (PM) refers to the tasks utilized as well as the sort of memory understood to motivate performance.

The majority of research completed in the area of prospective memory conducted in this area has investigated event-based PM, where the incident of a PM cue indicates it appropriate to carry out an intended act. "For example, & #8230;to execute the delayed intention of stopping to buy medicine during the drive home from work, PM is required to recognize the cue (pharmacy) as relevant to the intention (to buy medicine), while attention is focused elsewhere (driving)" (Loft, Kearney, and Remington, 2008, ¶ 2). Common intentions may include a person returning a phone call to a friend or co-worker after he completes a conversation with someone else or picking up a pizza on the way from work. According to Robert West (2005) in the book, Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging, "Prospective memory represents the realization of intentions that must be delayed over minutes, hours, or days in the absence of an external cue or prompt. Examples of Failures of prospective memory reflect one form of absent- mindedness..." (Cabeza, Nyberg, & Park, 2005, p. 246).

Current research relating to prospective memory implies that executive functions may contribute to describing performance in intricate task conditions. Conversely, a dearth of theoretical concepts does not clearly indicate which executive functions determine the performance of prospective memory. Matthias Kliegel and Mike Martin, both with the German Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, Dr. Mark a. McDaniel, University of New Mexico, and Dr. Gilles (2002), Einstein, Furman University, purport in the journal article, "Complex prospective memory and executive control of working memory: A process model," that furthermore, research may not clarify which executive functions prove critical in the development of the prospective memory process (¶ 1). As a result, Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, and Gilles maintain that prospective memory may be perceived to constitute a multi-stage process. They recommend a theoretical illustration that expands into four different phases. Figure 1 depicts these four phases of prospective memory.

Figure 1: Four Phases of Prospective Memory (adapted from Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, & Gilles, 2002).

In addition to fundamental skills like retrospective memory that motivate prospective memory performance, the process requires that the person prioritize, coordinate and sequence distinct task elements. Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, and Gilles (2002) assert that multifaceted prospective memory tasks may be presumed by the executive measures. The authors cite Neisser, a prominent researcher in prospective memory, to explain that "to remember" may stand for two daily separate cognitive processes. The first cognitive process may be for one to "remember what he/she must do" (Neisser, as cited in Kliegel, Martin, McDaniel, & Gilles, Summary Section, ¶ 2). The second cognitive process may be for one to "remember what he/she has done" (Ibid.). Current literature denotes first type of remembering "as prospective memory ["remember what he/she must do"] and to the second as retrospective memory" (¶ 2). In day-to-day experiences, one generally works on a number of "subtasks" to perform well on an everyday prospective memory task. One must initially develop an intention; keeping the intention in mind while he works on continuing activities. One also must monitor his environment to instigate the action at the proper time. He has to also execute the intended action aligned to the earlier planned intent.

Prospective memory may also be understood as the development and comprehension of deferred intentions. For example, an individual taking a shower abruptly remembers that he needs to return a DVD to the video store. Instead of instantly rushing out of the shower to return the video, the individual would plan to return the DVD later in the day while out running errands. In the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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