Date of Award

Fall 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

John B. Ford

Committee Member

Leona Tam

Committee Member

Edward Markowski


Picking up your dry cleaning after work, returning library books before the due date, picking up a friend at the airport; all of these tasks have one underlying feature that links them together. The tasks cannot be completed when the initial intention is formed. Prospective memory can be defined as remembering to remember (Winograd, 1988). It can also be defined as either remembering to do something at a particular moment in the future or as the timely execution of a previously formed intention (Kvavilashvili and Ellis, 1996). Remembering to do things (prospective memory) is just as much a use of memory as remembering information in the past (retrospective memory) (Harris, 1984). Yet psychological and marketing research on memory has dealt almost exclusively with remembering information rather than remembering to do things.

Ellis and McGann (2003) have argued that the degree to which specific cognitive skills are required for successful prospective memory depends not only on the characteristics of an intention but also the circumstances under which it should be realized. Simply stated, by analyzing prospective memory focusing only on the tasks at hand, one neglects the contextual components of the activity. In this case the social context within which the prospective memory task takes place is neglected. Munsat (1966) stated that there is a moral aspect that accompanies prospective memory failures: If retrospective memory fails, the person's memory is seen as unreliable, but if the prospective memory fails, the person is seen as unreliable. In this regard prospective memory failures are relevant to our social lives. A memory failure in these social contexts is embarrassing and affects the credibility that other people give us (Brandimonte and Ferrante, 2008). Meacham (1988) argued that in order to truly understand prospective memory, researchers should consider the nature of the interpersonal relationships involved.

Given the importance of the social dimensions of prospective memory, there again seems to be a gap in the literature. To date there are only a handful of published articles concerned with this aspect of prospective memory. It is the goal of this dissertation to provide a link between prospective memory and its social consequences through an investigation of the effect of the relationship strength and the direction of benefits on the outcome of an assigned prospective memory task. This experiment examined the effect of social strength on the completion rate of various prospective memory tasks and the effect of directional benefit on prospective memory task performance.

Prospective memory performance was significantly higher when another individual was present during the experiment. With respect to the relationship of the individual, contrary to the hypothesis, respondents improved prospective memory performance when a stranger was present. In terms of the direction of benefit, prospective memory performance significantly improved when an additional incentive was given to the respondent, with maximum performance occurring in the social importance condition. These results suggest that managers should encourage shoppers to bring another individual during the shopping experience. And the managers should separate out the benefits, offering either a personal reward or a social reward for completing an action. Suggestions for future research is discussed as well as the limitation to this study.