Prospective memories in the wild: Predicting memory for intentions in natural environments

Jan Rummel, Jean-Paul Snijder, Lia Kvavilashvili

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Prospective memory, the ability to remember an intention at the appropriate future moment, is often investigated in the laboratory to maximize experimental control. However, demands of laboratory prospective memory tasks only partly map onto everyday demands. Therefore, it is an open question whether factors which predict prospective memory in the laboratory also predict prospective memory in the real world. We combined diary and ecological momentary assessment methods to investigate which factors, that have been repeatedly shown to predict prospective memory performance in laboratory tasks, are related to the fulfillment of everyday intentions. Results showed that substantial portions of variance in real-world prospective memory performance could be explained with the factors found to be significant in laboratory. The most powerful predictors were perceived intention importance, the use of external memory aids, delay interval, and conscientiousness. However, some meaningful laboratory predictors (e.g., working memory) played only a minor role in natural environments and a large portion of the variance in everyday intention fulfillment remained unexplained. The results substantially extend the understanding of conditions and personality variables most conducive to remembering intentions, but they also suggest that additional factors influencing real-world prospective memory remain to be discovered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1075
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date20 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


  • Prospective memory
  • Everyday intentions
  • Ecological momentary assessment (EMA)
  • Ecological validity
  • Individual differences
  • Mental Recall
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Environment
  • Intention
  • Cognition


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