The effects of task demands on prospective memory, and their relationship with Autistic traits

  • Laura Smith

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)


Previous research suggests that prospective memory (PM) may be impaired in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but little is known about how this is affected by task demands, or if the trends in PM performance seen in ASD extend into the broader phenotype. The present study used a novel task design to systematically vary the difficulty of both the on going task (OGT) and PM aspects of the exercise in typically developed participants, as well as measuring their traits associated with autism using the Autistic Spectrum Quotient
(AQ). It was found that the effect of task demands on any aspect of the task depended on the task type (OGT or PM), and the difficulty of the other part of the exercise. More specifically, the negative impact of increasing the difficulty of the PM task could be seen in OGT performance, and vice versa; the negative impact of increasing the difficulty of the OGT could be seen in PM performance. No significant correlations were found between task performance and AQ scores, suggesting that PM performance was not related to traits associated with autism. Given that previous research has shown that PM performance is affected in ASD, this finding implies that these trends in PM performance do not extend into the broader autism phenotype.
Date of Award7 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorChris Jarrold (Supervisor)

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