UC Merced Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society Title Prospective Memory Tasks in Aviation: Effects of Age and Working Memory Prospective Memory Tasks in Aviation: Effects of Age and Working Memory

Van Benthem, Kathleen Herdman, Chris Lefevre, Jo-Anne, Kathleen Benthem, Chris Herdman, Jo-Anne Lefevre
Prospective memory is the ability to remember to perform acts in the future. Prospective memory is essential in the aviation domain because it supports a range of tasks including remembering to complete critical radio communications. A wide variety of literature reports that in the laboratory younger adults outperform older adults on many prospective memory tasks. In naturalistic settings however, older adults perform as well as or better than younger adults. It is suggested that lower working
more » ... emory load from ongoing background tasks, context cues and the habitual nature of the tasks are reasons for the improved performance by older adults in naturalistic settings. We tested this notion using a Cessna 172 aircraft simulator to examine radio communication task completion rates of 45 pilots (16 older and 29 younger participants). Individual measures of working memory were also collected. In contrast to the trends reported in the literature, we found that older pilots had significantly lower communication task completion rates than younger pilots in both the low and high working memory workload conditions. A multiple regression model identified age and working memory scores as the strongest individual predictors of prospective memory task performance in the low workload condition and working memory and recent pilot-in-command hours as significant predictors of performance in the high workload condition. Our results suggest that, even in a low workload condition, a naturalistic aviation context did not afford advantages to older pilots and that prospective memory task performance appears associated with age and working memory function.