The Influence of Emotional Cues on Prospective Memory: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses

Thomas J. Hostler, Chantelle Wood, C J Armitage

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Remembering to perform a behaviour in the future, prospective memory, is essential to ensuring that people fulfil their intentions. Prospective memory involves committing to memory a cue to action (encoding), and later recognising and acting upon the cue in the environment (retrieval). Prospective memory performance is believed to be influenced by the emotionality of the cues, however the literature is fragmented and inconsistent. We conducted a systematic search to synthesise research on the influence of emotion on prospective memory. Sixty-seven effect sizes were extracted from 17 articles and hypothesised effects tested using three meta-analyses. Overall, prospective memory was enhanced when positively-valenced rather than neutral cues were presented (d = 0.32). In contrast, negatively-valenced cues did not enhance prospective memory overall (d = 0.07), but this effect was moderated by the timing of the emotional manipulation. Prospective memory performance was improved when negatively-valenced cues were presented during both encoding and retrieval (d = 0.40), but undermined when presented only during encoding (d = -0.25). Moderating effects were also found for cue-focality and whether studies controlled for the arousal level of the cues. The principal finding is that positively-valenced cues improve prospective memory performance and that timing of the manipulation can moderate emotional effects on prospective memory. We offer a new agenda for future empirical work and theorising in this area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognition and Emotion
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • prospective memory
  • Cues
  • emotions
  • affect
  • review
  • meta-analysis

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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