Metamemory for prospective memory performance in younger and older adults: Does the reference point affect our judgments?

This pre-registered online study investigated whether metamemory can explain age differences in prospective memory (PM) and whether it is affected by A) the reference point used to evaluate performance and B) the order of presentation of the instruments. Half of the participants were asked to estimate their upcoming PM performance with a general confidence rating (performance condition) whereas the other half were asked to compare it to other people of their age (peers condition). They also completed some metamemory questionnaires, either at the beginning of the experimental session or after the PM task, in a counterbalanced order. We did not observe the age decline in PM performance typically observed in similar laboratory-based tasks. Younger and older participants were similarly underconfident in the performance condition and overconfident in the peers condition. Moreover, older adults reported significantly better PM abilities than younger adults, and participants generally reported more memory failures when the metamemory questionnaires were administered after the PM task and in the performance condition. These findings point to reactive effects of metamemory to metacognitive reference point and order of administration of the instruments, and highlight the importance of taking these aspects into account when designing metamemory studies and interpreting the results. Furthermore, the findings show that both younger and older adults have limited metacognitive insights. This result has relevant implications as decisions on metacognitive control strategies such as attention allocation or reliance on external aids will be based on biased expectations and might result in the adoption of maladaptive strategies.

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Consent form

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Debrief

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Digit Span Backward Task

The task is taken from the WAIS-R (Wechsler, 1981) and is a short working-memory test. Participants saw and immediately recall progressively longer sequences of single-digit numbers presented at a 1-s rate. Two trials for each sequence length were given, starting from a 2-digit sequence, and testing continued until participants missed both trials within the given sequence length.

Wechsler, D. (1981). Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Revised Manual. Psychological Corp.

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Exclusion

Participants not meeting the inclusion criteria (see Initial Questionnaire) are excluded from the study.

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Final_Questionnaire

This final questionnaire contains some demographic questions and collects participants’ impressions on the study.

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Information sheet

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Initial Questionnaire

This short questionnaire checks that the following inclusion criteria are met:

  1. Being aged 18-30 years or 65+ years;
  2. Speaking English as first language;
  3. Not having received a diagnosos of neurological or psychological condition (for example, depression, stroke, dementia, etc)

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Multifactorial Memory Questionnaire (MMQ)

Troyer, A. K., & Rich, J. B. (2002). Psychometric properties of a new metamemory questionnaire for older adults. Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/57.1.P19

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Metacognitive Prospective Memory Inventory short version (MPMI-s)

Metacognitive Prospective Memory Inventory short version (MPMI-s) - Prospective Memory Ability scale

Rummel, J., Danner, D., & Kuhlmann, B. G. (2019). The short version of the Metacognitive Prospective Memory Inventory (MPMI-s): Factor structure, reliability, validity, and reference data. Measurement Instruments for the Social Sciences, 1(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42409-019-0008-6

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Lexical Decision Task - peers condition

This is a lexical-decision task. Participants are presented with strings of letters, one at the time, and asked to indicate whether they think it is a real word or a non-word. At the end of the task, participants receive the instructions and practice the prospective memory component of the task. They are also asked to estimate their performance compared to their peers.

The words were taken from the English Lexicon Project (Balota et al., 2007) whereas the nonwords were generated with the Wuggy algorithm (Keuleers & Brysbaert, 2010).

Balota, D. A., Yap, M. J., Hutchison, K. A., Cortese, M. J., Kessler, B., Loftis, B., Neely, J. H., Nelson, D. L., Simpson, G. B., & Treiman, R. (2007). The English Lexicon Project. Behavior Research Methods, 39(3), 445–459.

Keuleers, E., & Brysbaert, M. (2010). Wuggy: A multilingual pseudoword generator. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 627–633. https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.3.627

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Lexical Decision Task - performance condition

This is a lexical-decision task. Participants are presented with strings of letters, one at the time, and asked to indicate whether they think it is a real word or a non-word. At the end of the task, participants receive the instructions and practice the prospective memory component of the task. They are also asked to estimate their performance with a general rating from 0 to 100%.

The words were taken from the English Lexicon Project (Balota et al., 2007) whereas the nonwords were generated with the Wuggy algorithm (Keuleers & Brysbaert, 2010).

Balota, D. A., Yap, M. J., Hutchison, K. A., Cortese, M. J., Kessler, B., Loftis, B., Neely, J. H., Nelson, D. L., Simpson, G. B., & Treiman, R. (2007). The English Lexicon Project. Behavior Research Methods, 39(3), 445–459.

Keuleers, E., & Brysbaert, M. (2010). Wuggy: A multilingual pseudoword generator. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 627–633. https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.3.627

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Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)

Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams, J. B. W. (2001). The PHQ-9. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16(9), 606–613. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1525-1497.2001.016009606.x

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Prospective Memory Task

The ongoing task consists of a lexical-decision task. Participants are presented with strings of letters, one at the time, and asked to indicate whether they think it is a real word or a non-word. For the PM task, participants learn a target syllable and are asked to press a different key on the keyboard whenever they detect a word containing the learnt syllable.

The words were taken from the English Lexicon Project (Balota et al., 2007) whereas the nonwords were generated with the Wuggy algorithm (Keuleers & Brysbaert, 2010).

Balota, D. A., Yap, M. J., Hutchison, K. A., Cortese, M. J., Kessler, B., Loftis, B., Neely, J. H., Nelson, D. L., Simpson, G. B., & Treiman, R. (2007). The English Lexicon Project. Behavior Research Methods, 39(3), 445–459. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03193014

Keuleers, E., & Brysbaert, M. (2010). Wuggy: A multilingual pseudoword generator. Behavior Research Methods, 42(3), 627–633. https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.3.627

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Prospective and Retrospective Memory Questionnaire (PRMQ)

Smith, G., Del Sala, S., Logie, R. H., & Maylor, E. A. (2000). Prospective and retrospective memory in normal ageing and dementia: A questionnaire study. Memory, 8(5), 311–321. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658210050117735

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Experiment tree

This is the sequence of the different tasks and questionnaires. Participants are randomly assigned to one of the experimental conditions.

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Vocabulary Task

Shipley Institute of Living Scale: Vocabulary

Shipley, W. C., & Burlingame, C. C. (1941). A Conveninent Self-Administering Scale for Measuring Intellectual Impairment in Psychotics. American Journal of Psychiatry, 97(6), 1313–1325. https://doi.org/10.1176/ajp.97.6.1313

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Preferred Citation Preprint
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/56kdv
Conducted at Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability (CIGEV), University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Published on 16 December 2021
Corresponding author Dr Chiara Scarampi Postdoctoral researcher
Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability
University of Geneva