When remembering to perform tasks in the future, 2 separate attentional brain processes appear equally successful in achieving the same outcome, a new study suggests.
According to a popular theory, top-down attentional control is necessary in maintaining activation in prospective memory. For example, in trying to remember to take reusable bags to the grocery store, the top-down approach would involve constant reminders to oneself not to forget them.
Another theory maintains that a bottom-up approach of spontaneous retrieval triggered by cues is effective. In the grocery bag scenario, such a cue might involve hanging the reusable bags from the front door knob as a reminder.
In the study, functional MRI (fMRI) of 45 adults, aged 18 to 37 years, showed both processes to be equally effective in leading to successfully performing prospective memory tasks.
"These findings suggest that people could make use of several different strategies to accomplish prospective memory tasks," said study lead author Mark McDaniel, PhD, professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in a statement.
Their report was published online August 1 in the journal Psychological Science.