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This study investigated the effects of levels of processing, distinctiveness and gender on
event-based and time-based prospective memory. One hundred and twenty students (60
males and 60 females) of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki (EBSU) with a mean age of
23.31 years participated in the study. The stimulus material was a meaningful prose passage.
Event-based and time-based prospective memory were tested with the Prospective Memory
Test (PMT). Data were subjected to multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and
results reveal a significant main effect of levels of processing, distinctiveness and gender on
prospective memory. There was also a significant interaction effect of levels of processing
and gender on event-based prospective memory (P<0.05). The implications of findings were
discussed and suggestions for further studies made.
Keywords: Levels of processing, Distinctiveness, Gender, Prospective Memory,




Title Page i
Dedication ii
Acknowledgements iii
Table of Contents iv
List of Figures vi
List of Table vii
Statement to the problem 11
Purpose to the study 11
Operational definition of terms 11
Theoretical Review 13
Empirical Review 24
Summary of Literature review 52
Hypotheses 57
Participants 58
Materials 58
Procedures 59
Design/Statistics 62
Summary and Conclusion 73
Limitations of the Study 74
Suggestion for Further Research 74
References 75
Appendices 89




Many life activities cannot be immediately performed because of various contextual,
physical, or temporal constraints. In any of these situations, people or individual can form an
intention to fulfill the activity at a later point in time or future, when the opportunity affords
itself (Gene, Justin, Richard &Nash, 2010).Prospective memory involves the integration of
cognitive processes and skill required to fulfil a preplanned future action (Ellis
&Kvavilashvili,2000) such as remembering to attend postgraduate proposal tomorrow.
According to Ingo and Matthias (2010) the ability of remembering to initiate and
execute an intended action at some time in the future (while being engaged in an
attentionally demanding ongoing activity) is called prospective memory (PM). Piauilino,
Tufik, Bitten- Court, Santosilva, Hachul, Gorenstein, and Pompeia (2010) defines
prospective memory as the ability to become aware of a previously formed plan or intention
at the right time and place, in the absence of an explicit of remembering operation in future.
Stefan and Beat (2014) see PM as the planned action. Brandimonte, McDaniel, and Einstein,
(1996, 2014) referred PM to the memory required to carry out planned actions at the
appropriate time, such as meeting a friend for lunch or taking a medication.
Prospective memory involves retrieval of an intention to action that has been stored
in long-term memory, also an important element of prospective remembering in which
individual is typically engaged in a different kind of action or ongoing cognitive processing
at the point in which prospective remembering is required (Brandimonte, Einstein, & Mc
Daniel, 1996). Guynn, McDaniel, and Einstein (1998) defined PM as remembering to
remember retrieval.
Prospective memory tasks can be created in the laboratory by instructing participants to
make a special response to a specific event (event –based) or at a specific time (time-based)
while they are otherwise engaged in a different task. McDaniel and Einstin, (2007) defined
PM as a form of memory that involves remembering to perform a planned action or
intention at the appropriate time as PM tasks are highly prevalent in daily life and range
from relatively simple tasks to extreme life-or-death situations. Examples of simple tasks
include remembering to put the tooth paste cap back on, remembering to reply to an e-mail
or remembering to return a rented movie. Examples of high tasks include a patient
remembering to perform specific safety procedures during a flight.
Einstein and McDaniel (1990) stated that PM is better when cues for remembering
are distinctive. Remembering what you need to do and then doing those things involves
prospective memory, example, remembering to perform intended actions, like going to class,
taking your books to school, keeping an evening appointment, or taking medications.
Two components are necessary for PM performance (tasks) namely remembering
what one wants to do, and remembering to do it at the right time. These two things are easy
for event that occur on a regular basis, like brushing your teeth in the morning or being at
cognitive psychology class at the same time every Tuesday and Thursday, but for things that
occur just occasionally, cues to remind human to do something can be important. Einstein
and McDaniel (1990) hypothesized that PM might be better remembered when these cues
are distinction than when they are familiar. Consider for example, the task of delivering a
message to a friend, seeing the friend latter in the day might functions as a cue to remain the
individual to deliver the message. However, Einstein and McDaniel (1990) proposed that
distinctive cues are more effective than familiar cues, if this is so, remembering to deliver
the message to friend might be harder than remembering to deliver a message to a stranger.
This would occur both because the stranger provides a distinctive cue, which stands out
more than a friend the individual sees every day, and because seeing a friend might trigger
associations such as talking about the movie individual saw last night which could distract
the individual from remembering to deliver the message. An individual with inhibitory
deficits tends to struggle when they have to remember to do something, whether that is
keeping an appointment, picking up a loaf of bread after work, picking up your children
when it is 12:00pm in school, returning a phone call, or taking a medication. This type of
memory, known as PM, involves remembering to carry out intentions or fulfilling previously
set goals (Marsh, Hicks, & Landau, 1998).
Prospective memory performance appears to be influenced by a number of variables,
for example, performance is partially dependent on one’s motivation to carry out the task
(Meacham & Singer, 1977), the importance of the intention (Kvavilashvili, 1987, 1992) and
one’s comfort with the task (Meacham & Kushner, 1980). While the period of time over
which one must remember an intention before carrying it out does not consistently influence
subsequent performance (Wilkins & Baddeley, 1994), the methods by which individuals
attempt to remember their intentions over the time periods do matter (Harris, 1980).
There are two main classifications of PM namely event-based and time-based PM.
The present study is concerned with the event-based and time-based prospective memory
task. Event-based PM refers to the ability to remember to execute a delayed intention after a
specific time (Ingo & Matthias, 2010). Anna, Alexander, Even, Yon, and Peter (2012) said
event-based PM involves tasks that rely on some environmental cue to elicit a previously
established intention. For example, a participant may be given an instruction to press the F1
computer key if the animal word is presented at any point during the pleasantness rating
task. In this case the target is seeing an animal word which should elicit the intention to
press the F1 key. As the participant becomes engrossed in the primary ongoing task of rating
pleasantness of words, they must also remember to make a different response in the event
that the pre-specified target (animal word) occurs. Thus PM paradigms measure participant’s
ability to encode an intended future action, and to act on that intention at the appropriate
time (Elis & Freeman, 2008). Event-based PM refers to the cognitive process that enables
completion of intentions, through reliance on some environmental cue (Smith, Hunt,
McVay, & McConnell, 2007). The multi-process view suggests that people will engage in a
variety of cognitive processes to support event based cue detection depending on both the
nature of the ongoing task and the type of cues that will be encountered in the context of that
task (Mc Daniel & Einstein, 2000). An event-based intention is typically composed of some
actions that need to be carried out in the future which is associated with a set of potential
cues that serve to elicit the intention from memory (Suzanna & Walter 2013).
One important variable known to influence the recognition process necessary for
event-based cue detection is the specificity or locality of the cues that are related to the
previously formed intention (Einstein & McDaniel, 2005). They operationally defined
locality as the features of the event-based cue highlighted by ongoing task processing, and
they summarized the distinction between local and non-focal event-based cues by providing
extensive example of each, specifically high local processing occurs when the ongoing task
encourages processing features of the event-based cues similar to how they were processed
at encoding (i.e; transfer-appropriate processing). McDaniel, Guyon, Einstein, and Breneiser
(2004) further distinguished event-based PM into immediate-execute tasks and delayedexecute
tasks. Immediate-execute tasks involves a response as soon as a particular cue is
noticed, while delayed-execute tasks involves delays between the perception of the relevant
cue and the performance of the intended action. Delayed-execute tasks occur in real life
when circumstances of a situation prevent intermediate action once the cue has been
Time-based PM is a type of prospective memory in which remembrance is triggered
by a time-related cue that indicates that a given action needs to be performed. An example is
remembering to watch a television program at 4:00pm.(McDaniel, & Einstein, 2000).
Kvavilashvili and Fisher (2007) defined time-based PM as the ability to remember to
execute a delayed intention after a specific time. (Example, calling someone at 3.00pm or to
remembering to watch Nigeria and France world club match at 5.00pm on 30th June, 2014).
Time-based PM involves remembering to do an action at a particular point in time
(McDaniel & Einstein, 2007). For example, seeing that it is 10:00pm acts as a cue for you to
know that it is time to watch your favourite television programme. Within time-based tasks,
the distinction has been drawn between intentions that must be carried out at a specific time
(called pulse intentions) versus that can be completed with a window period of time (called
step-intentions) (Ellis,1988). From a conceptual perspective, time-based PM is assumed to
be particularly dependent on self-initiated mental activities, such as active time monitoring
(d’Ydewalle, Bouckaert, & Brunfaut, 2001), and therefore is assumed to be more errorprone
in PM comparison to event-based PM (e.g., Einstein, McDaniel, Richardson, Guynn,
& Cunter, 1995). Time based PM has been shown to develop between 7 to 12 years of age as
children become increasingly proficient at applying time-checking strategies (Ceci, Baker, &
Bronfenbrenner, 1988). Time-based PM is likely to be mastered at a later age than eventbased
PM because it places greater executive demands by requiring sophisticated strategy
use such as continuous time monitoring (Martin, Kliegel, & McDaniel, 2003).
Another variable of interest in this study is levels of processing. Levels of processing
refers to an alternative to the stage theory of memory stating that the memory is a matter of
degree rather than different kinds of memory and is based on how incoming information is
processed (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). According to Lahey (2003), if we are to benefit from
our experiences, we must be able to remember them, and that remembering what we learn is
as important as learning it in the first place. The durability of stored information depends on
how well it is processed and encoded in the memory.
One of the several models proposed to explain the nature of memory processes is
levels of processing. It proposed that the duration that information can be held in memory
depends on the attention and depth at which information are processed, not the amount of
time information is held in the memory (Craik & Tulving, 1975).
Smith, Theodore, and Franklin (1983) examined this hypothesis; they investigated
how depth of processing affect the amount of processing obtained in the processing of a
target items in a lexical detection task (LDT). Although the view of separate memory
systems gained wide acceptance among cognitive psychologist, Craik & Lockhart (1972)
rejected the idea that memory’s location determined its characteristics, rather than thinking
how information are to-be-remembered (TBR). TBR stimulus as a fixed object with distinct
properties that were altered as it moved through a rigid system of storages, they argued that
the stimulus could be processed in a variety of ways called levels of processing. According
to this model, memory depends on depth of processing; deep processing which involves
greater attention and elaboration of information in the memory during the encoding phase or
when processing of information centers on meaning and shallow processing, which involves
the encoding of superficial, perceptual information in the memory or when processing is
keyed to superficial aspect of new information or involve paying little attention to stimulus
meaning. When the semantic base or meaning of new information is the focus of processing,
the information will be remembered. On the other hands, if only analyzed, the information
will be less well remembered.
Rack, (1979) maintained that levels of processing model have two central themes,
first, semantic analysis which results in a deeper memory code of a more meaningful code
than does of a non-semantic analysis which involved lesser memory code . Secondly, the
deeper the code, the more durable the memory, meaning that forgetting is simply a function
of depth of processing. People forget things that they have not processed semantically.
The levels of processing propositions have been criticized (Baddeley, 1978; Loftus,
Green, & Smith, 1980). The criticism hinge on the fact that saying that something is well
remembered, because it was deeply processed does not tell us how people may ensure deep
processing in other people. The fundamental concept of the levels of processing by Craik
and Lockhart (1972) is that different methods of encoding information into memory results
in different types of memory codes. Memory codes differ in their strength. The strength of
the memory code, in turn, determines speed of decay of the memory trace and success of
recall from memory over time. Craik and Lockhart (1972), used an incident learning task to
examine the hypothesis that the manner of encoding affects the strength of the result
memory trace. They predicted that attending to the physical feature of the stimuli would
result in shallow encoding and a weak memory trace. Attending to the acoustic properties of
the stimuli would result in a moderate level of processing and a moderately strong memory
trace. Attending to the semantic properties of the stimulus would result in the deepest levels
of processing and the strongest memory trace.
Another variable of primary interest to this study is Distinctiveness. Hunt and Lamb
(2001), opined that stimuli that are in some way unusual, novel or atypical are generally
better remembered than stimuli that are usual or common place. Given a list of items to
remember, people show a memory advantage for an item that differs from other items in
some ways. For instance, given a list of physiological models such as; Ear, Skull, Eye,
Maze, and Brain. People attain to show a memory advantage for the maze, which stand out
(distinctive) of the physiological models. In other words, for a stimulus to be distinctive it
has to stand out. The central idea of distinctiveness is that difference attracts attention.
However, Hunt (1995) argued that difference alone is insufficient in explaining the effect of
distinctiveness in memory.
Hunt (1995) maintained that distinctiveness emerges from noting difference in the
context of similarity. Stephen (2004) defines distinctiveness as an item different in
appearance or meaning from other items. Eysenck (1979) defined distinctiveness in terms of
shared features in memory. Events are distinctive, if the stored representation of these events
shares few features with other items in memory. Similarly, Hunt & McDaniel (1993),
defined distinctiveness relative to a qualitative set of weighted attributes. The attributes of an
item are given more or less weight depending on the overall structure of an experience. In
other words, the weight given to a particular feature is a direct function of the number of
times that features has been recently processed. Thus, features that are shared by a number
of items in an experience are given a lot of weight, while differences in one or more
dimensions of features in an experience are given little weight thereby making these items
distinctive. Distinctiveness is said to be a deviation from context.
According to Schmilt (1991) in the absence of a cogent definition, distinctiveness
can be defined in terms of its different experimental manipulations as well as its consistent
and shared effects. Schmidt (1991) further opined memory code can differ in distinctiveness
as well as in the extent of elaboration. To remember something, people would like to make it
a distinctive item, one that really stands out from other items that could interfere with our
memory. There are several different ways in which an item can be distinctive; Schmidt
(1991) classified distinctiveness into four. (i) Primary distinctiveness in which
distinctiveness is defined relative to the immediate context. For instance, in a list of common
words and all the words are printed in red ink, except for one word that is printed in black
ink. And when people are asked to remember the list of words, people tend to remember the
word in black ink than the words in red ink. Note that the word in black ink is distinctive
only because the colour differs from the colour of other words on the list. (ii) Secondary
distinctiveness is defined relative to information in long term memory (LTM) rather than to
information in the immediate context, example, is a characteristic of a words spelling. A
word is orthographically distinctive if it has an unusual shape, as determined by the
sequencing of short and tall letters in the word, orthographically distinctive words include
lymph, Khaki and afghan. Examples of Orthographically common words are leaky, Kennel,
and airway. The first three words have unusual shapes, and the last three have more typical
shapes. Notice that a shape is unusual (distinctive) relative to all other words stored in LTM
not just to words in the immediate context of the experiment. Hunt and Elliott (1980) stated
that when people are asked to remember a list of words, half of which are orthographically
common, they remember significantly more of the distinctive words.
A third kinds of distinctiveness is called emotional distinctiveness and is motivated
by the finding that events that produce strong emotional responses are sometimes
remembered well, these events include flashbulb memories, the vivid recollections that most
people have of the circumstances surrounding their discovery of a shocking piece of news
(Brown & Kulik, 1977). Events such as the assassination of President Kennedy or the
explosion of the space shuttle challenger (Winograd & Neisser, 1992) have been studied as
examples of people’s flash bulb experiment. Fourth kind of distinctiveness is called
processing distinctiveness. Processing distinctiveness depends on how we process the
stimulus; it is therefore the result of the memory code that we create for an item rather than
the characteristics of the item itself. For instance, even if an item is not very distinctive,
people may think of a distinctive way of remembering it. If it is distinctive, people may
think of a distinctive way of processing it to make it even more distinctive. Elaboration is
one possible strategy to make an item more distinctive, but the elaboration should emphasize
characteristic that differentiate that item from other items (Eysenck, 1979). An example of
processing distinctiveness is that people apparently remember faces as carivatures by
exaggerating the distinctive features to make the faces even more distinct. Processing
distinctiveness and the level of processing theory emphasize the importance of creating good
memory codes, and that level-of- processing effect is caused by differences in
distinctiveness. To demonstrate that distinctiveness can account for the levels-of-processing
effect, it would be necessary to show that semantic codes are more distinct than phonemic
code and that phonemic codes are more distinct than physical codes (Moscovitch & Craik,
1976; Eysenck, 1979).
Gender is the last variable of interest to the study. Are there any differences or
similarities in the memory processes of men and women? Garofoli (2006) for example
argued that male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition.
Moir and Jessel (1989) argued, for example, that men and women are different
psychologically because their brains are different.
Schlaepfer, Harris, Tien, Peng, Lee and Pearlson (1995) assert that the areas of Broca
and Wenicke are significantly larger in women than men, resulting in women’s superiority
in language associated thoughts. Earlier, Kail and Siegel (1978) had asserted that females
are less lateralized for visuo-Spatial functions than male. Two theories have been proposed
to explain the notion that lateralization of functions occurs somewhat differently in male and
female brains. Buffery and Gary (1972) hypothesis that left hemisphere dominance for
verbal functions is attained earlier in girls, which in turn does not permit spatial processing
to be bilateral in girls as it is in boys. Levy (1972) on the other hands, hypothesized that
females, like left-handed males, are more likely to be bilateral for verbal functions; and that
this in turn inhibits the development of spatial processing capabilities.
Attention and perception which occur at the earliest stages of information processing
appear to differ between males and females and may provide some clues in regard to
differences occurring later on in cognitive processing. For instance, infant girls have been
found to gaze longer at visual stimuli than boys, and males are more likely to be diagnosed
with attention related problems (Kimura, 1992). Merzer (2007) criticized the notion that
women are more superior in language association thoughts and verbal language. Men
generally communicate on a need-to-know basis, while women communicate to bond.
Shrive (2007) asserts that even though the brain of males and females are somewhat
different from birth, there are still some clear similarities. Hyde, Fennema, and Lamon
(1990) maintained that gender differences exist in behaviour, they suggest that the
superiority of either gender depends on a number of factors such as type of task, age and
selectivity of the sample. Hamitton (1995) further argues that there exist some differences in
gender which could be related to socio-cultural and educational factors. Women are
culturally expected to exhibit diminished spatial cognitive performance relative to men:
women are subjected to the expectation that they cannot or may not excel in spatial behavior
(Sjolinder, 1998).
In view of the forgoing debate and disagreement surrounding the effects of levels of
processing, distinctiveness and gender on prospective memory, need arises for the present
Statement to the Problem
The contemporary story of prospective memory is about mental and physical
abilities, on the one hand, and its limitations, on the other hand. There are many people, for
whom remembering information from memory is a problem. Why are some people so much
better at remembering things (past or future) than others?. Are they simply born with this
ability, or could one learn to remember as much as they do?. The Questions are endless, but
specifically, this study would address the following:
1. Does levels of processing influence event-based and time-based prospective
2. Does distinctiveness influence event-based and time-based prospective memory?
3. Does event-based and time-based prospective memory depend on gender?
Purpose to the study
The purpose to the study is to determine whether:
1. Levels of processing would influence event-based and time-based prospective
2. Distinctiveness would influence event-based and time-based prospective memory.
3. Gender would play significant role on event-based and time-based prospective
Operational Definition of Terms
Levels of processing
This refers to the meaning one assigns to a stimulus during information processing. There
are usually 2 levels of processing- “deep” and shallow processing.
Deep Processing
Deep processing refers to the processing of information meaningfully and with
understanding as expected with instruction (cue) indicating need to remember a material.
Shallow Processing
Shallow Processing refers to the processing of information on the surface level with little or
no regard to the meaning as expected with cue indicating no need to remember the material
This refers to the ability of a stimulus to stand out in the means of similarity, or of it being
different from other stimulus. In this study, there are two levels of distinctiveness;
distinctive condition and non-distinctive condition. These levels will be determined by the
instruction to be given to participants in the various treatment conditions.
This refers to the biological classification of human sex into male or female. In this
study, there are the participants.
Prospective memory
This refers to the memory task in which an individual must remember to perform an
intended action at some designated point in the future as measured in this study using
prospective memory test.
There are usually 2 types of prospective memory- “event-based” and “time-based”
prospective memory.
Event-based prospective memory
This refers to the memory task in which participants are required to perform an
action when some external event or cue occurs as measured by event-based prospective
memory test.
Time-base prospective memory
This refers to the memory task in which participants are required to perform an action at a
certain time or after a period of time has elapsed as measured by time-based prospective
memory test.