Age-related differences in everyday prospective memory tasks : The role of planning and personal importance
The aim of the present studies was to investigate whether age-related improvement found in naturalistic but experimenter-given prospective memory (PM) tasks can be generalized to real-life intentions. In Study 1, younger, middle-aged, and older adults generated a list of intended activities for the following week; one week later they marked the tasks that they had performed. The participants were also asked to rate the importance of each listed intention and to describe the circumstances of completion that were already known to them. We found that, compared with younger adults, older adults attributed a higher degree of importance to their intentions and had the circumstances of their completion better planned. However, the age-related benefit in the PM performance for all listed intentions was not present for the very important and well-planned tasks. In Study 2 we manipulated whether younger adults engaged or not in the detailed planning of when their intentions could be completed. It was demonstrated that younger adults who had to perform detailed planning completed their intended activities more often than those who did not plan for their intentions. The results support explanations of the age-related benefit in everyday PM that highlight the role of importance and planning.