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PLOS ONE  2008 

Transparent Meta-Analysis of Prospective Memory and Aging

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001568

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Prospective memory (ProM) refers to our ability to become aware of a previously formed plan at the right time and place. After two decades of research on prospective memory and aging, narrative reviews and summaries have arrived at widely different conclusions. One view is that prospective memory shows large age declines, larger than age declines on retrospective memory (RetM). Another view is that prospective memory is an exception to age declines and remains invariant across the adult lifespan. The present meta-analysis of over twenty years of research settles this controversy. It shows that prospective memory declines with aging and that the magnitude of age decline varies by prospective memory subdomain (vigilance, prospective memory proper, habitual prospective memory) as well as test setting (laboratory, natural). Moreover, this meta-analysis demonstrates that previous claims of no age declines in prospective memory are artifacts of methodological and conceptual issues afflicting prior research including widespread ceiling effects, low statistical power, age confounds, and failure to distinguish between various subdomains of prospective memory (e.g., vigilance and prospective memory proper).


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