Prospective memory has helped to divide people by procrastination

Swiss scientists have discovered a connection between forgetfulness regarding upcoming actions and intentions (prospective memory) and procrastinate. They asked 93 students to remember when they need to send seven messages in four days, and then watched how accurately they perform this request: those who were prone to procrastination, coping with the job worse. This relationship, however, was not always absolute, that allowed the scientists to divide the people into three types: conscious procrastinators, unconscious procrastinators and those for whom procrastination is simply not typical. Article published in the journal Psychological Research.

Human memory is necessary to store information not only about past events, but also about the planned actions and intentions: for example, this opposition is well illustrated by the need not to forget, on the one hand, the list of necessary products, and on the other, I do need to go. Such a memory (i.e. memory of something that needs to be done in the future) call prospective, and to disrupt its work is quite simple: studies claimthat their memories of all prospective that is often disappear.

Prospective memory is required for daily activities, so it’s important to understand what affects it: for example, with the help of which it can be improved, and that can make it worse. Matthias Kliegel (Matthias Kliegel) from the University of Geneva and his colleagues decided to investigate how prospective memory is affected by procrastination, that is a temporary postponement of cases and intentions.

In their experiment involved 93 students. They all filled out a standardized questionnaire to determine the level of procrastination: it included questions on active procrastination (all of them boiled down to the fact, to determine how the participant was inclined to delay things until the last moment) and the observed procrastination (these questions indicated the extent to which the participant believes that doing everything at the wrong time). In addition, participants also gave consent to participate in the study and asked to sign, scan and send it to the experimenters in advance no later than the established dates (from 21 to 39 days of receipt of the sheet). So scientists have evaluated the procrastination of the participants on the experiment (or rather, as they call it, “behavioral procrastination”).

As an assignment, participants were given a sheet on which was painted the time of day (morning, afternoon or evening) the next four days. The participants had to choose seven of them and write the time (but not the whole hour and half-hour): at this time, they had to send the experimenter a message with a specific word (e.g., “cake”). The time the message was sent and its contents you need to remember: so within four days, the scholars expected from each of the participants in the seven messages at a certain time (for example, the word “bell” at 16:15 on the second day of the experiment), given the possible error in six minutes. Each unsent message in time, scientists believed forgotten the prospective memory.

After analyzing the relationship between on time unsent messages and different measures of procrastination, the scientists found that the most forgetful were those who had not sent a leaflet about participation (p = 0.001), but not those who simply believed that doing everything at the wrong time. While active procrastinators (results of survey), by contrast, were more often sent messages back in time (p = 0.016), and the observed level of procrastination was not related to the work of prospective memory in General.

As scientists got ambiguous results of the experiment, they decided to conduct a cluster analysis dividing each participant in three-dimensional space the relationship between prospective forgetfulness, behavioral procrastination and active procrastination.

The participants were divided into three clusters. In the first cluster (“nephroblastomatosis”) were participants with low levels of active and behavioral procrastination that sends messages on time. In the second cluster (“conscious procrastinators”) included those participants who later sent a sheet of participation (increased rate of behavioral procrastination) and was, according to the survey, active procrastinators. They, nevertheless, was able to send e-mails to experimenters. “Conscious procrastinators,” according to scientists, are different to those that know that they are prone to procrastination — and that this knowledge helps them to maintain an acceptable level of functioning.

Finally, the third group took “unconscious procrastinators”. For them, as was typical of this low level of procrastination, as for the “mediocritization”, but about how to send the message on time, they forget more often than “conscious procrastinators”.

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