The age-prospective memory paradox: Is it about motivation?

Peter, Jessica; Kliegel, Matthias (2018). The age-prospective memory paradox: Is it about motivation? Clinical and translational neuroscience, 2(2), 2514183X1880710. Sage Publications 10.1177/2514183X18807103

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Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to carry out intentions within a certain delay. PM tasks require a large degree of self-initiated retrieval, and in the absence of a prompt to recall, people must ‘remember to remember’ by their own volition. Thus, PM is a challenge – especially in old age with increasing health-related PM demands. Surprisingly, older adults show less pronounced impairment in naturalistic PM tasks (e.g. call the experimenter twice a day) than in the laboratory (e.g. press button × when a specific word appears). In fact, the age-PM paradox states that older individuals regularly outperform younger participants in naturalistic PM approaches. In these tasks, older individuals might experience better time management, better planning abilities, or a more efficient use of PM cues. Alternatively, elderly people might be more motivated when performing naturalistic tasks rather than abstract tasks. Here, we review the literature on the impact of motivation on the age-PM paradox by highlighting different methods used to manipulate motivation. We applied a systematic literature search on the Medline/PubMed database and reference lists of articles. Main findings suggest that depending on the type of modulation and the task setting, motivation enhances PM performance in older adults: Increasing importance (either by the experimenter or personally) boosted PM performance in older adults both in the laboratory and in naturalistic settings, while offering a monetary reward did not. Conversely, providing a social motive enhanced PM performance in the laboratory but not in naturalistic approaches. Although these results are encouraging, they also highlight the need for additional research on the impact of motivation on PM performance. Future studies should particularly focus on investigating the effect of non-financial reward on PM performance and elucidate the role of personality traits in the relation between motivation and PM.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Geriatric Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Peter, Jessica


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Sage Publications




Jessica Peter

Date Deposited:

19 Nov 2018 16:27

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:19

Publisher DOI:





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