Maintenance of Activation Within Goal Hierarchies

Open Access
Stevens, Christopher Adam
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 12, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Thesis Advisor
  • goal memory
  • cognitive control
  • working memory
Maintenance of goal activation is important to the successful completion of cognitive tasks. However, it is still unclear how this activation is maintained. The hypothesis that superordinate goals provide a source of activation for their subgoals was tested in two experiments. Across experiments, the presence of task cues was manipulated as a way of measuring activation loss in subgoals. A benefit of task cues would suggest activation loss. In Experiment 1, participants completed a task with a superordinate goal - multi-step arithmetic problems. Task cues did not impact performance, suggesting that superordinate goals may have been restoring subgoal activation. In Experiment 2, the presence of a superordinate goal was manipulated. Task cues improved accuracy regardless of goal condition. However, task cues did not affect the rate of slowing within problems. Therefore, the evidence for activation loss is mixed. Overall, the results fail to provide clear evidence for or against the hypothesis.