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Neuropsychology. 2011 Sep;25(5):602-12. doi: 10.1037/a0023972.

Finding the self in metacognitive evaluations: metamemory and agency in nondemented elders.

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  • 1Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Metacognitive methodologies are used to examine the integrity of self-referential processing in healthy adults and have been implemented to study disorders of the self-concept in neurologic and psychiatric populations. However, the extent to which metacognitive evaluations assess a uniquely self-evaluative capacity that cannot be explained fully by primary cognitive functions, demographics, or mood is not clear. The objective of the current study was to examine whether metamemory and a metacognitive test of agency shared a self-referential association that would not be explained by cognition, demographics, or mood.


Thirty-eight nondemented older adults (Mini Mental State Examination [MMSE] ≥24 and mean age = 68.13) participated in metacognitive testing and completed cognitive testing and mood questionnaires. Bivariate correlations were used to evaluate the association between metamemory and agency, and to determine the cognitive (memory, attention, and executive functioning), demographic (age and education), and mood (anxiety and depression) correlates of each. Correlates of metamemory and agency were then entered into linear regression models to determine whether any association between metacognitive measures remained.


Metamemory was associated with agency judgments (n = 27), specifically those on self-controlled rather than computer-controlled trials (r = .41, p = .03). Regression results supported a role for agency in predicting metamemory, above and beyond memory and education (β = .39, p = .034). Metamemory was also an independent predictor of agency judgments (β = .36, p = .049).


The interrelation between metamemory and agency judgments suggests that metacognitive testing captures an important aspect of self-referential processing not otherwise assessed in a standard cognitive evaluation and may provide unique information about self-evaluative capacities in clinical populations.

PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved.

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