Smoking-related prospective memory deficits observed on naturalistic everyday memory task

T. M. Heffernan*, T. S. O'Neill, M. Moss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study assessed self-reported and objective prospective memory (PM) processes in smokers and a never-smoked comparison group. If persistent smoking does impair PM, then one would expect smokers recall being lower on a study that requires them to remember everyday activities when compared with a never-smoked group. An existing-groups design was used to compare a group of smokers with a never-smoked group on the self-report Prospective Memory Questionnaire (PMQ) and the Prospective Remembering Video Procedure (PRVP) measuring objective PM. An example of the location–action combination from the PRVP is ‘At Thornton's shop’ (location), ‘Buy a bag of sweets’ (action). Participants who reported using an illegal substance (e.g. ecstasy, cannabis), who drank excessively or were ‘binge drinkers’, or who reported suffering from a clinical condition, such as depression, were excluded from the study. Age, weekly ‘safe levels’ alcohol use, and strategy use were also measured and controlled for in the study. Each person was tested individually in a quiet laboratory setting on a university campus. After controlling for variations in age, weekly alcohol use, and strategy use, smokers recalled significantly fewer location–action combinations on the PRVP when compared with a never-smoked group, with no between-group differences on self-reported PM as measured by the PMQ. The findings suggest objective PM deficits are associated with persistent smoking – a relatively unexplored area of research. This cannot be attributed to other drug use, mood, or strategy use. The findings also suggest smokers lack self-awareness of such PM deficits. This study extends the area by utilising a more naturalistic object measure of PM and incorporating strict controls into the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalIrish Journal of Psychological Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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