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Social importance enhances prospective memory: evidence from an event-based task

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Prospective memory performance can be enhanced by task importance, for example by promising a reward. Typically, this comes at costs in the ongoing task. However, previous research has suggested that social importance (e.g., providing a social motive) can enhance prospective memory performance without additional monitoring costs in activity-based and time-based tasks. The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of social importance in an event-based task. We compared four conditions: social importance, promising a reward, both social importance and promising a reward, and standard prospective memory instructions (control condition). The results showed enhanced prospective memory performance for all importance conditions compared to the control condition. Although ongoing task performance was slowed in all conditions with a prospective memory task when compared to a baseline condition with no prospective memory task, additional costs occurred only when both the social importance and reward were present simultaneously. Alone, neither social importance nor promising a reward produced an additional slowing when compared to the cost in the standard (control) condition. Thus, social importance and reward can enhance event-based prospective memory at no additional cost.
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Keywords: Prospective memory; goal focus; monitoring costs; reward; social importance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Psychology, Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Publication date: July 3, 2017

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