Fitting an ex-Gaussian function to examine costs in event-based prospective memory: Evidence for a continuous monitoring profile

Shayne Loft, Vanessa K. Bowden, B. Hunter Ball, Gene Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Event-based prospective memory (PM) tasks require individuals to remember to perform a deferred action when a target event occurs. PM task requirements can slow ongoing task responses on non-target trials ('costs') under conditions where the defining features of targets are non-focal to the ongoing task, which is indicative that individuals have allocated some form of cognitive control process to the PM task. Recent fits of the ex-Gaussian mathematical function to non-target trial response distributions by prior studies have indicated that these control processes are transiently allocated. In the current paper, fits of the ex-Gaussian function to data reported by Loft and Humphreys (2012) demonstrate a shift in the entire response time distribution (μ) and an increase in skew (τ) for a non-focal PM condition required to remember to make a PM response if presented with category exemplars, compared to a control condition. This change in μ is indicative of a more continuous PM monitoring profile than that reported by prior studies. In addition, within-subject variability in μ was reliably correlated with PM accuracy, suggesting that these control processes allocated on a regular basis were functional to PM accuracy. In contrast, when the ongoing task directed attention to the defining features of targets (focal PM) there was a trend level increase in μ, but the within-subject variability in μ was not correlated with PM accuracy, consistent with the theoretical premise that focal PM tasks are not as dependent on cognitive control as non-focal PM tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-182
Number of pages6
JournalActa psychologica
Volume152
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Keywords

  • Ex-Gaussian function
  • Learning and Memory
  • Prospective memory
  • Response costs
  • Target focality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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