Knowing more than we know:
Metacognition, semantic fluency, and originality in younger and older adults
Dillon H. Murphy & Alan D. Castel
We examined age-related similarities and differences in people’s metacognitive awareness of retrieval from semantic long-term memory as well as the originality of their responses. Participants completed several semantic fluency tasks, and before recalling items, made metacognitive predictions of their performance. Additionally, after retrieval, participants made metacognitive evaluations of the originality of their responses. Results revealed that both younger (Mage = 24.49) and older adults (Mage = 68.31) were underconfident in their performance, despite some metacognitive awareness of their ability to retrieve information from semantic memory. Younger and older adults became more metacognitively aware of their abilities with task experience, but there were no significant differences in participants’ metacognitive predictions and postdictions, although older adults believed that they were less original than younger adults. These findings revealed a “skilled and unaware” effect whereby participants were underconfident on the first trial and became less underconfident on later trials. These patterns may fit with a broader literature that has found a lack of adult age differences in metacognition for verbal skills but shows that older adults may believe that their access to original verbal knowledge may decline in older age.