Investigating working memory and metamemory in old age : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University

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Massey University
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An investigation of metamemory for working memory was conducted in a group of older adults aged 60 to 74 years using a variation of the Daneman and Carpenter (1980) reading span task. There were twelve trials in each experiment, with each trial containing six sentences. Participants had to assess whether each sentence was true or false as well as remembering the last word of each sentence in correct order. In Experiment 1 words were phonologically similar (rhyming) and dissimilar (non-rhyming), whereas Experiment 2 presented one syllable (short) words and two syllable (long) words Half the participants were asked to predict how well they would remember the words and half were asked to postdict how well they had recalled the words. Participants were also asked to complete the Metamemory Functioning Questionnaire (Gilewski, Zelinski & Schaie, 1990) for a self-assessment of memory and this was compared to their memory performance on the recall task. Results indicated that older adults recalled more rhyming words than non-rhyming words, and more short words than long words. They overestimated the number of non-rhyming words they would remember but their estimates fluctuated in the same pattern as actual recall for the rhyming and non-rhyming words showing some accuracy in their metamemory. However, people unexpectedly estimated that they would do better with long than short words. For long words postdictions matched recall better than predictions which showed that older adults were able to gather information about their performance during the task. There was no correlation between the MFQ scores and the recall accuracy of the memory task probably because the questionnaire measured more general aspects of everyday memory, whereas the recall task involved a single and very specific aspect of memory. When compared to the younger adults the older adults showed poorer recall performance and overestimation was larger for older adults. These results showed us that to some extent, older adults are able to estimate their memory performance, using metamemory in a complex memory task.
Memory in old age, Short-term memory, Memory, Short-term memory testing, Cognition in old age, Working memory