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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2013 May;39(3):965-71. doi: 10.1037/a0029198. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Failing to forget: prospective memory commission errors can result from spontaneous retrieval and impaired executive control.

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Department of Psychology, Washington University in St. Louis, USA.


Prospective memory (PM) research typically examines the ability to remember to execute delayed intentions but often ignores the ability to forget finished intentions. We had participants perform (or not perform; control group) a PM task and then instructed them that the PM task was finished. We later (re)presented the PM cue. Approximately 25% of participants made a commission error, the erroneous repetition of a PM response following intention completion. Comparisons between the PM groups and control group suggested that commission errors occurred in the absence of preparatory monitoring. Response time analyses additionally suggested that some participants experienced fatigue across the ongoing task block, and those who did were more susceptible to making a commission error. These results supported the hypothesis that commission errors can arise from the spontaneous retrieval of finished intentions and possibly the failure to exert executive control to oppose the PM response.

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