A role for memory in prospective timing informs timing in prospective memory

Emily R. Waldum, Lili Sahakyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Time-based prospective memory (TBPM) tasks require the estimation of time in passing-known as prospective timing. Prospective timing is said to depend on an attentionally driven internal clock mechanism and is thought to be unaffected by memory for interval information (for reviews see, Block, Hancock,&Zakay, 2010; Block&Zakay, 1997). A prospective timing task that required a verbal estimate following the entire interval (Experiment 1) and a TBPM task that required production of a target response during the interval (Experiment 2) were used to test an alternative view that episodic memory does influence prospective timing. In both experiments, participants performed an ongoing lexical decision task of fixed duration while a varying number of songs were played in the background. Experiment 1 results revealed that verbal time estimates became longer the more songs participants remembered from the interval, suggesting that memory for interval information influences prospective time estimates. In Experiment 2, participants who were asked to perform the TBPM task without the aid of an external clock made their target responses earlier as the number of songs increased, indicating that prospective estimates of elapsed time increased as more songs were experienced. For participants who had access to a clock, changes in clock checking coincided with the occurrence of song boundaries, indicating that participants used both song information and clock information to estimate time. Finally, ongoing task performance and verbal reports in both experiments further substantiate a role for episodic memory in prospective timing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-826
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Duration
  • Prospective memory
  • Time estimation
  • Time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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