Episodic memory is fundamental to our lives, so why do we sometimes remember and sometimes forget, and why do some individuals remember better than others? While answers to these questions often focus on processes at the time of learning (memory encoding) or during the act of retrieval, a wealth of evidence now indicates that neurocognitive states that precede attempts to remember also have powerful influences on whether those imminent attempts will succeed or fail. Here, I present recent work from functional neuroimaging, electroencephalography, pupillometry, and behavioral science to propose an integrative framework that explains variance in remembering in the moment and across individuals as a function of interactions among preparatory attention, goal coding, and mnemonic processes. I also consider how this "readiness to remember" framework can partially explain variance in other functions of memory, such as prospection and creative thinking, at state and trait levels, as well as mnemonic disruptions linked to aging and everyday multitasking with media. I conclude by discussing implications of quantifying and harnessing preparatory interactions.
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