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What Brings Intentions to Mind? An In Situ Study of Prospective Memory

Abi Sellen, Louie, Hammond, Wilkins
In a naturalistic study, we aimed to uncover the relationship between thinking about and remembering intentions. Electronic badges allowed us to track the activities of subjects within their work environment. Over two weeks, subjects were asked to respond using a button on their badges (1) every two hours (Time task); (2) whenever they were in a particular room (Place task). In addition, whenever they thought about the task, they were asked to indicate this with their badges. Although subjects thought about the Time task more, they forgot to respond more often than they did in the Place task. In the Time task, there was a marked absence of thoughts about the task following successful remembering. When subjects remembered the Place task, thoughts increased with proximity to the target location. In both tasks, thoughts about intentions occurred more in places such as stairwells, than in locations where people tended to settle. On the basis of these findings, possible mechanisms for prospective memory are discussed.
Memory, 1997, Volume 5 (4), pp 483-507