Prospective memory in safety-critical work contexts
Reliable prospective memory (PM) functioning of individuals is essential for safe and efficient outcomes of sociotechnical work systems such as air traffic control, commercial piloting, emergency healthcare, intensive care, submarine control rooms, and emergency response units. This chapter reviews the literature regarding the aspects of PM, focusing in particular on aviation and healthcare. It explores the need to understand the interaction between the environment in which deferred tasks must be remembered and the individual; referred to as distributed PM. The chapter discusses how individual and system level vulnerabilities in PM can be identified and mitigated. An external reminder that is salient enough to guarantee attention may be overly distracting and subjectively annoying, and could potentially take an operator’s attention away from other safety-critical task. Interlocks that prevent operators from proceeding until steps are completed can also be effective PM aids, but like alerts and warnings, these must be carefully designed to work within the overall task environment.