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Metamemory In Adulthood

Overall, research and theory in metamemory in adulthood incorporate many of the issues raised in the neighboring domains of metamemory research. They do so in part through implementation of an inclusive and multidimensional concept of metamemory (e.g., Dixon; Hertzog and Hultsch). Four principal characteristics are the following: (a) metamemory includes a wide variety of behaviors (knowledge, beliefs, evaluations, and estimates), indicating the level, degree, or extent of an individual's metamemory performance or skill; (b) it features a multidimensional concept, in that the multiple facets or behaviors are viewed as separable but linked dimensions of a coherent construct of metamemory; (c) it assumes that multiple operations and dimensions would converge on a higher-order construct of metamemory and that metamemory can be discriminated from related constructs; and (d) metamemory is a construct of intrinsic interest in the study of normal cognitive aging, but one that may also have substantial implications for understanding impairments of memory late in life.

Metamemory represents one's knowledge, awareness, and beliefs about the functioning, development, and capacities of one's own memory and human memory in general. As such, it includes three principal categories. First, declarative knowledge about how memory functions includes knowledge of how the characteristics of memory tasks have an impact on memory performance, whether strategies are required, and which strategies may be usefully applied to particular situations. Second, self-referent beliefs about one's capability to use memory effectively in memory-demanding situations defines memory self-efficacy and controllability (e.g., Cavanaugh). One's beliefs about one's ability to remember may determine (a) the extent to which one places oneself in memory-demanding situations, (b) the degree of effort one applies to perform the memory task, (c) one's expectation regarding level of memory performance, and (d) one's actual memory performance. Certain aspects of affect regarding memory (in general) or one's memory performance and change (in particular) may also play a role (e.g., motivation to do well, fear of memory-demanding situations).

Third, awareness of the current, general, and expected states of one's memory performance includes processes of memory insight and memory monitoring. Effective rememberers are able to actively and accurately monitor their performance vis-á-vis the demands of the memory task. A high degree of accuracy in predictions of performance, evaluations of encoding demands, and on-line judgments of learning may indicate an effective and accomplished rememberer (e.g., Hertzog and Hultsch). In clinical situations, an awareness of a deficit may be an important precursor to memory compensation (e.g., Wilson and Watson).

In aging research, these categories of metamemory have been related to one another both theoretically and empirically (see Hertzog and Hultsch). In principle, for older adults, high performance on given memory tasks should be promoted by the following metamemory profile: (a) a well-structured declarative knowledge base about how memory functions in given tasks, (b) refined knowledge of one's own memory skills, (c) accurate and high memory self-efficacy, and (d) skill at the monitoring and control activities during acquisition, retention, and retrieval. In addition, it could be useful to have (e) stable or low memory-related affect, such that the potential deleterious effects of memory-related anxiety or depression could be avoided. In contrast, some older adults with poorer—and perhaps impaired—performance could be experiencing some components of the following profile: (a) and (b) an ill-structured, incomplete, or erroneous knowledge base pertaining to general memory functioning or one's own memory skills, (c) inaccurate or low memory self-efficacy, (d) an inability to monitor and control the requisite activities of effective remembering, and (e) fluctuant, uncontrolled, or excessive memory-related anxiety or depression. These profiles define two hypothetical ends of a continuum.

Two clinical implications of these hypothetical profiles in older adults are evident. First, can some aging-related memory disorders or impairments be remedied through clinical intervention designed to assess and improve selected categories of metamemory? Second, can the diagnosis and remediation of some organic memory disorders (e.g., the result of injuries or disease) be advanced through the use of metamemory or awareness information? Research on these questions is advancing on a variety of fronts, including cognitive neurorehabilitation (e.g., Wilson and Watson), memory compensation in late life (e.g., Dixon et al.), awareness of and insight into neuropsychological conditions (e.g., Lovelace), memory complaints and their origins and implications (e.g., Gilewski and Zelinski et al.), and potential effects of metamemory training on memory.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 3Metamemory - Concept Of Metamemory, Metamemory In Adulthood, Conclusion