The importance of age-related differences in prospective memory: Evidence from diffusion model analyses

B. Hunter Ball, Andrew J. Aschenbrenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Event-based prospective memory (PM) refers to relying on environmental cues to trigger retrieval of a deferred action plan from long-term memory. Considerable research has demonstrated PM declines with increased age. Despite efforts to better characterize the attentional processes that underlie these decrements, the majority of research has relied on measures of central tendency to inform theoretical accounts of PM that may not entirely capture the underlying dynamics involved in allocating attention to intention-relevant information. The purpose of the current study was to examine the utility of the diffusion model to better understand the cognitive processes underlying age-related differences in PM. Results showed that emphasizing the importance of the PM intention increased cue detection selectively for older adults. Standard cost analyses revealed that PM importance increased mean response times and accuracy, but not differentially for young and older adults. Consistent with this finding, diffusion model analyses demonstrated that PM importance increased response caution as evidenced by increased boundary separation. However, the selective benefit in cue detection for older adults may reflect peripheral target-checking processes as indicated by changes in nondecision time. These findings highlight the use of modeling techniques to better characterize the processes underlying the relations among aging, attention, and PM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1114-1122
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Aging
  • Attention
  • Diffusion model
  • Older adults
  • Prospective memory


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