Prospective memory while driving: comparison of time- and event-based intentions

Steven L. Trawley, Amanda N. Stephens, Peter G. Rendell, John A. Groeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Prospective memories can divert attentional resources from ongoing activities. However, it is unclear whether these effects and the theoretical accounts that seek to explain them will generalise to a complex real-world task such as driving. Twenty-four participants drove two simulated routes while maintaining a fixed headway with a lead vehicle. Drivers were given either event-based (e.g. arriving at a filling station) or time-based errands (e.g. on-board clock shows 3:30). In contrast to the predominant view in the literature which suggests time-based tasks are more demanding, drivers given event-based errands showed greater difficulty in mirroring lead vehicle speed changes compared to the time-based group. Results suggest that common everyday secondary tasks, such as scouting the roadside for a bank, may have a detrimental impact on driving performance. The additional finding that this cost was only evident with the event-based task highlights a potential area of both theoretical and practical interest. Practitioner Summary: Drivers were given either time- or event-based errands whilst engaged in a simulated drive. We examined the effect of errands on an ongoing vehicle follow task. In contrast to previous non-driving studies, event-based errands are more disruptive. Common everyday errands may have a detrimental impact on driving performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-790
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • delayed intentions
  • distractions
  • driving
  • driving simulator
  • Prospective memory
  • virtual environment

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