Age-Related Reduction of the Confidence–Accuracy Relationship in Episodic Memory: Effects of Recollection Quality and Retrieval Monitoring

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We investigated age-related reductions in episodic metamemory accuracy. Participants studied pictures and words in different colors and then took forced-choice recollection tests. These tests required recollection of the earlier presentation color, holding familiarity of the response options constant. Metamemory accuracy was assessed for each participant by comparing recollection test accuracy with corresponding confidence judgments. We found that recollection test accuracy was greater in younger than older adults and also for pictures than font color. Metamemory accuracy tracked each of these recollection differences, as well as individual differences in recollection test accuracy within each age group, suggesting that recollection ability affects metamemory accuracy. Critically, the age-related impairment in metamemory accuracy persisted even when the groups were matched on recollection test accuracy, suggesting that metamemory declines were not entirely due to differences in recollection frequency or quantity, but that differences in recollection quality and/or monitoring also played a role. We also found that age-related impairments in recollection and metamemory accuracy were equivalent for pictures and font colors. This result contrasted with previous false recognition findings, which predicted that older adults would be differentially impaired when monitoring memory for less distinctive memories. These and other results suggest that age-related reductions in metamemory accuracy are not entirely attributable to false recognition effects, but also depend heavily on deficient recollection and/or monitoring of specific details associated with studied stimuli.

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