Social Interaction Motivation And Prospective Memory

Our interaction with other people influences (and is influenced by) our memory capability not only when we recall information that was acquired in the past (retrospective memory), but also when we perform actions based on previously formed

1 Nominal groups are control groups formed by pooled individual performances (total nonredundant outputs) of an equal number of participants tested individually.

intentions (prospective memory). In both cases, memory failures in social contexts are deeply embarrassing, as they affect the credibility that other people give us.

Prospective memory failures are particularly relevant in people's social lives. As Winograd (1988) noted in his seminal paper "Some Observations on Prospective Remembering," there is a moral aspect that accompanies prospective memory failures: If retrospective memory fails, the person's memory is seen as unreliable, but if prospective memory fails, the person is seen as unreliable (Munsat, 1966). The responsibility given to the person whose prospective memory performance is unsatisfactory is therefore clearly social in nature. In the same years, Meacham (1988) argued that to understand prospective remembering, research should consider the quality of interpersonal relations within which the rememberer is enmeshed. Indeed, according to Meacham, if the intention remains a private fact, it can be conveniently forgotten or even denied. On the other hand, from a social-mind perspective, intentions are stable and long-lasting, thereby playing a causal role in behavior (Meacham, 1988, pp. 355-356) by modulating the strength of motivation and volition.

Like needs and goals, intentions are motivational states. Theories of both cognitive and social psychology suggest that such motivational states are characterized by enhanced accessibility of motivation-related concepts and representations (Anderson, 1983; Bruner, 1957; Forster, Lieberman, & Higgins, 2005). For example, in Anderson's (1983) adaptive control of thought (ACT*) model, goals are considered as sources of activation capable of sustaining activation even without rehearsal. In this perspective, enhanced accessibility of intention-relevant concepts derives from goals' strengths and values (i.e., from motivation-based mechanisms) rather than from rehearsal and strategic monitoring (i.e., from attention-based mechanisms). Of course, this is not to say that cognitive, attention-based mechanisms are not at work, only that they are not the original source of activation, which is instead motivational.

Motivation theories of volition converge on the idea that enhanced accessibility of goal-related concepts may contribute to effective goal pursuit (e.g., Goshke & Kuhl, 1993). For example, Gollwitzer (e.g., Gollwitzer, 1996; see also Cohen & Gollwitzer, chap. 17, this volume), in his implementation intention theory,2 suggested that activation of intention-relevant representations prepares the individual to efficiently, and often automatically, detect goal-relevant cues in the environment (see also Bargh, 1997; Custers & Aarts, 2005; Gollwitzer & Bargh, 2005). In this perspective, automatic or unconscious motivations respond immediately and effortlessly to environmental conditions that promote or support the goal in question, hence keeping a person on task, even when the conscious mind is focused elsewhere. As Gollwitzer and Bargh (2005) suggested, "the efficient nature of unconscious motivation makes it an especially effective means of goal pursuit in complex and busy social environments in which conscious attention is divided and in short supply" (p. 624). For example, Gollwitzer, Bayer, and McCullock (2005) recently identified a factor able to reduce the impact of social loafing. In their study,

2 Implementation intentions refer to an act of willing that furnishes the goal intention with an if-then plan that specifies the when, where, and how the person will realize the goal.

which was aimed at testing the effect of plans on social loafing, they showed that forming implementation intentions is sufficient to eliminate the tendency to loaf in a cognitive task (i.e., generating ideas).

Strength of motivation, strength of a person's intention or goal, and quality of implementation are all variables that may be modulated by social factors. Indeed, classic motivational theories hold that people are more prone to commit for those goals the attainment of which is perceived as both highly desirable and feasible. Typically, it is the social group to which the person belongs that establishes which goals are or are not desirable, feasible, or socially important (e.g., Atkinson, 1957; Lewin, 1951). As we discuss later in the chapter, prospective remembering seems particularly sensitive to the social value (i.e., social importance) of the action to be performed (Brandimonte, Ferrante, Bianco, & Villani, 2007a; Cicogna & Nigro, 1998; Kvavilashvili, 1987; Meacham & Kushner, 1980).

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