Presentation Title

An Investigation of the Relations Between Stress and Prospective Memory

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Prospective memory (PM) is a future-oriented memory system that entails “remembering to remember” intentions, or to perform actions in the future. People spend significant portions of their day-to-day lives forming and acting on intentions, and the ability to successfully generate, retain, and complete these intentions has important implications for one’s daily functioning and quality of life. PM further divides into two differing types: Time-based and event-based PM. Time-based PM entails performing an action at a specific time in the future, or following the passage of a certain amount of time. Common examples of time-based PM include remembering to attend an appointment at 9:00 am, or remembering the take cookies out of the oven after 20 minutes. In contrast, event-based PM involves performing an action following the appearance of an environmental cue that signals the appropriateness of executing a previously formed intention. An example of event-based PM is remembering to tell a friend or colleague an important message when you see that person next. In that context, the presence of the friend serves as a cue that may remind one to deliver the intended message. Besides PM, another common human experience is stress, whether that be short-term, acute stress, or long-term, chronic stress.

Despite how common and important both stress and PM are in everyday life, the research base documenting the relations between them is lacking. This topic area requires additional research to specify how stress interacts with PM. The current study provides novel data towards that effort, assisting to disentangle the ways in which stress influences PM performance. To answer the question of interest, those in the experimental group underwent stress-induction procedures (i.e., they completed an oral presentation and mental arithmetic task), while participants in the control group completed a word search activity. After these tasks, all participants completed a computerized PM task. This task entailed pressing the left shift key on a keyboard when a target word appeared (the word “can”) in the context of another word (e.g., "Canada"), and pressing the right shift key after every four minutes elapsed since the start of the task. Participants could press the enter key to display a clock that tracked the total time elapsed.

The results demonstrated that generally, there were no were no significant group differences on event-based PM performance, or time-based PM performance in any accuracy window. Yet, among a smaller subset of those in the experimental group who reported the highest amounts of stress, acute stress levels correlated significantly with higher event-based PM performance. In addition, higher reported stress at the outset of the study correlated significantly with enhanced time-based PM accuracy as well as clock-checking behavior. These novel results have important implications surrounding how stress might impact one’s ability to carry out intentions in the future, and highlights the adaptive nature of stress. It appears that under certain conditions, stress may enhance one’s ability to detect more “covert” cues with associated intentions, as well as better monitor and carry out intentions based on time.

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Apr 27th, 2:25 PM Apr 27th, 2:40 PM

An Investigation of the Relations Between Stress and Prospective Memory

UC Ballroom, Pod #1

Prospective memory (PM) is a future-oriented memory system that entails “remembering to remember” intentions, or to perform actions in the future. People spend significant portions of their day-to-day lives forming and acting on intentions, and the ability to successfully generate, retain, and complete these intentions has important implications for one’s daily functioning and quality of life. PM further divides into two differing types: Time-based and event-based PM. Time-based PM entails performing an action at a specific time in the future, or following the passage of a certain amount of time. Common examples of time-based PM include remembering to attend an appointment at 9:00 am, or remembering the take cookies out of the oven after 20 minutes. In contrast, event-based PM involves performing an action following the appearance of an environmental cue that signals the appropriateness of executing a previously formed intention. An example of event-based PM is remembering to tell a friend or colleague an important message when you see that person next. In that context, the presence of the friend serves as a cue that may remind one to deliver the intended message. Besides PM, another common human experience is stress, whether that be short-term, acute stress, or long-term, chronic stress.

Despite how common and important both stress and PM are in everyday life, the research base documenting the relations between them is lacking. This topic area requires additional research to specify how stress interacts with PM. The current study provides novel data towards that effort, assisting to disentangle the ways in which stress influences PM performance. To answer the question of interest, those in the experimental group underwent stress-induction procedures (i.e., they completed an oral presentation and mental arithmetic task), while participants in the control group completed a word search activity. After these tasks, all participants completed a computerized PM task. This task entailed pressing the left shift key on a keyboard when a target word appeared (the word “can”) in the context of another word (e.g., "Canada"), and pressing the right shift key after every four minutes elapsed since the start of the task. Participants could press the enter key to display a clock that tracked the total time elapsed.

The results demonstrated that generally, there were no were no significant group differences on event-based PM performance, or time-based PM performance in any accuracy window. Yet, among a smaller subset of those in the experimental group who reported the highest amounts of stress, acute stress levels correlated significantly with higher event-based PM performance. In addition, higher reported stress at the outset of the study correlated significantly with enhanced time-based PM accuracy as well as clock-checking behavior. These novel results have important implications surrounding how stress might impact one’s ability to carry out intentions in the future, and highlights the adaptive nature of stress. It appears that under certain conditions, stress may enhance one’s ability to detect more “covert” cues with associated intentions, as well as better monitor and carry out intentions based on time.