Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Metamemory Judgments and Study Time Allocation in Young and Older Adults: Dissociative Effects of a Generation Task

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Metamemory Judgments and Study Time Allocation in Young and Older Adults: Dissociative Effects of a Generation Task

Article excerpt

This study explored age-related differences in the use of metacognitive judgment to allocate extra study time according to the perceived difficulty of a learning task. The task difficulty was varied by manipulating the encoding condition which entailed either generating or reading paired associates. Perceived difficulty was measured by the global prediction rating, whereby participants predicted that they would recall fewer words in the learning task they considered hardest. Participants were first asked to predict their own future recall performance and then learned paired associates in their own time, and finally performed a cued-recall test for each encoding condition. Our results replicated earlier findings that generation improves the memory performance of both young and older adults. However, both groups thought that generation would be more difficult than reading and predicted that they would recall fewer words under that condition. The young adults allocated different amounts of study time to the two tasks, whereas the older adults allocated the same time. This was interpreted as an age-related impairment in self-initiated coordination of metacognitive judgment and the control processes required for effective allocation of study time.

Keywords: aging, metamemory judgment, study time allocation, memory, generation effect

In order to complete a memory task, different aspects of the task and of our own cognitive abilities need to be assessed so that appropriate strategies can be selected. The efficacy of the strategy chosen also needs to be evaluated while carrying out the task. If it is perceived sufficiently effective, it will be retained, but if not, it will be changed for another possibly more effective strategy. These processes are referred to as metacognition, which is a broad term that encompasses both knowledge and regulation of cognitive ability (Flavell & Wellman, 1977). When people have to carry out a memory task, they use metacognitive knowledge which is connected to monitoring (Nelson & Narens, 1990) and relates to what they know about the tasks, mnemonic strategies and their own cognitive abilities. Metacognitive regulation is connected to control (Nelson & Narens, 1990) and involves strategy selection, execution, and modification. In the literature, a common and useful method for measuring metacognitive monitoring is to ask participants to make a metacognitive judgment, for example, to predict how many items they will remember on an upcoming memory test, and then to compare this judgment with their actual performance. Several studies have been carried out using different types of judgment: Judgment of Learning (JOL), in which predictions are made about the likelihood of recalling recently studied items (Mazzoni & Cornoldi, 1993); Feeling of Knowing (FOK), which concerns the likelihood of subsequent recognition of nonrecalled information (Nelson & Narens, 1990); Quality of Encoding (QUE), which is a judgment about the quality of the encoding process (Dunlosky, Kubat-Silman, & Hertzog, 2003); Ease of Learning (EOL), elicited before study (Leonesio & Nelson, 1990); and global prediction (Woo, Schmitter-Edgecombe, & Fancher, 2008). In the present research, we used the global prediction index, which is an estimation of the total number of items that participants think they will recall in an upcoming memory test. Generally, global prediction is elicited before and/or after the encoding session, and always before the memory test. In the current study, participants predicted their future memory performance before the encoding session which involved either reading or generating target items. Within this context, we used the global prediction measure for a function not commonly found in the literature, namely as an estimation of task difficulty, in that the harder the participants considered the learning task to be, the fewer words they predicted they would recall. Self-paced study time can also be considered as a measure of metacognitive control, specifically, selection and modification of strategies (e. …

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