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  • Writer's pictureDillon Murphy

Age-Related Differences in Metacognitive Reactivity in Younger and Older Adults


M&L_Murphy, Rhodes, & Castel, 2024
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Age-Related Differences in Metacognitive Reactivity in Younger and Older Adults

Dillon H. Murphy, Matthew G. Rhodes, and Alan D. Castel


When we monitor our learning, often measured via judgments of learning (JOLs), this metacognitive process can change what is remembered. For example, prior work has demonstrated that making JOLs enhances memory for related, but not unrelated, word pairs in younger adults. In the current study, we examined potential age-related differences in metacognitive reactivity. Younger and older adults studied lists of related and unrelated word pairs to remember for a later cued recall test where they would be presented with one of the words from the pair and be asked to recall its associate. Additionally, participants either made a JOL for each pair or had an inter-stimulus interval of equal duration as the JOL period. Results revealed that while making metacognitive judgments did not significantly affect memory in younger adults (i.e., no reactivity), this procedure impaired memory in older adults (i.e., negative reactivity), particularly for unrelated word pairs. Specifically, older adults demonstrated better cued recall when each word was followed by an inter-stimulus interval than when asked to predict the likelihood of remembering each word during the study phase. This may be a consequence of JOLs increasing task demands/cognitive load, which could reduce the elaborative encoding of associations between word pairs in older adults, but older adults’ preserved or even enhanced semantic memory may mask negative reactivity for related word pairs. Future work is needed to better understand the mechanisms contributing to the reactivity effects in younger and older adults for different types of to-be-remembered information.

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