Event-based prospective remembering in a virtual world

Steven L. Trawley, Anna S. Law, Robert H. Logie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Most laboratory-based prospective memory (PM) paradigms pose problems that are very different from those encountered in the real world. Several PM studies have reported conflicting results when comparing laboratory- with naturalistic-based studies (e.g., Bailey, Henry, Rendell, Phillips, & Kliegel, 2010). One key contrast is that for the former, how and when the PM cue is encountered typically is determined by the experimenter, whereas in the latter case, cue availability is determined by participant actions. However, participant-driven access to the cue has not been examined in laboratory studies focused on healthy young adults, and its relationship with planned intentions is poorly understood. Here we report a study of PM performance in a controlled, laboratory setting, but with participant-driven actions leading to the availability of the PM cue. This uses a novel PM methodology based upon analysis of participant movements as they attempted a series of errands in a large virtual building on the computer screen. A PM failure was identified as a situation in which a participant entered and exited the “cue” area outside an errand related room without performing the required errand whilst still successfully remembering that errand post test. Additional individual difference measures assessed retrospective and working memory capacity, planning ability and PM. Multiple regression analysis showed that the independent measures of verbal working memory span, planning ability, and PM were significant predictors of PM failure. Correlational analyses with measures of planning suggest that sticking with an original plan (good or bad) is related to better overall PM performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2181-2193
Number of pages13
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • prospective memory
  • planning
  • virtual reality
  • working memory


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