Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Human Factors Psychology

Committee Chair/Advisor

Pak, Richard

Committee Member

Einstein , Giles

Committee Member

Gugerty , Leo

Committee Member

Merritt , Paul


The picture superiority effect (i.e. better memory for pictures than words) is well established in retrospective memory, but the examination of the picture superiority effect in prospective memory has been underrepresented in the literature. Understanding if pictures lead to better prospective memory than words has the theoretical benefit of increasing our understanding of what particular factors lead to spontaneous retrieval and the practical benefit of informing the design of memory aids. Additionally, I examine if there are differences in ongoing task and prospective memory task performance between age groups (old and young) and under different loads of attention (non-divided and divided). I hypothesized that pictures are more distinct than words, and will therefore promote spontaneous retrieval, which will be exhibited by high and stable performance in the picture (not word) conditions across both divided and non-divided attention tasks and equivalent prospective memory performance by younger and older adults in only the picture, not word conditions. Results demonstrated that a picture superiority effect does exist for prospective memory tasks. Participants viewing all picture stimuli not only remembered to perform the PM task more often than participants who viewed all word stimuli, they also performed the ongoing categorization task faster. Although my hypotheses were not fully supported, there is evidence for picture stimuli leading to spontaneous retrieval more than word stimuli. An applied example of how pictures can help alleviate memory demands is provided through a first-hand account of a newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic's daily task of insulin administration.

Included in

Psychology Commons



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