The relationship between prospective memory and episodic future thinking in younger and older adulthood

Gill Terrett, Nathan S Rose, Julie D Henry, Phoebe E Bailey, Mareike Altgassen, Louise H Phillips, Matthias Kliegel, Peter G Rendell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Episodic future thinking (EFT), the ability to project into the future to 'pre-experience' an event, and prospective memory (PM), remembering to perform an intended action, are both examples of future orientated cognition. Recently it has been suggested that EFT might contribute to PM performance but to date few studies have examined the relationship between these two capacities. The aim of the present study was to investigate the nature and specificity of this relationship, as well as whether it varies with age. Participants were 125 younger and 125 older adults who completed measures of EFT and PM. Significant, positive correlations between EFT and PM were identified in both age groups. Furthermore, EFT ability accounted for significant unique variance in the young adults, suggesting that it may make a specific contribution to PM function. Within the older adult group EFT did not uniquely contribute to PM, possibly indicating a reduced capacity to utilise EFT, or the use of compensatory strategies. This study is the first to provide systematic evidence for an association between variation in EFT and PM abilities in both younger and older adulthood and shows that the nature of this association varies as a function of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-323
Number of pages14
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date27 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgement: This research was supported by a Discovery Project grant (No. DP110100652) from the Australian Research Council. We would like to thank Clare Ryrie and Melissa Bugge for their assistance in recruiting and testing participants, Fiona Sparrow for transcribing, and Ashleigh Dever, Kimberly Mercuri and Matthew Nangle for scoring, the AI interviews.


  • prospective memory
  • episodic future thinking
  • autobiographical interview
  • virtual week


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