Metamemory and executive function mediate the age-related decline in memory

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Objective: Although the effect of aging on episodic memory is relatively well studied, little is known about how aging influences metamemory. In addition, while executive function (EF) is known to mediate the age-related decline in episodic memory, the role of metamemory in aging-related memory differences beyond EF remains unknown. This study aimed to elucidate the effect of aging on metamemory and to clarify the role of metamemory in the age-related decline in memory. 

Method: One hundred and four adults aged 18-79 years (50 M, 54 F) performed several EF tasks, as well as a face-scene paired-associate learning task that required them to make judgments of learning, feeling-of-knowing judgments, and retrospective confidence judgments. 

Results: Aging was significantly associated with poor metamemory accuracy and increased confidence across metamemory judgment types, even after controlling for EF and memory performance. A parallel mediation analysis indicated that both confidence of learning and EF performance had significant partial mediation effects on the relationship between aging and memory, albeit in different ways. Specifically, poor EF explained the age-related decline in memory, whereas increased confidence of learning served to compensate for this memory decline. 

Conclusions: Aging is associated with general changes (i.e., poor inferences from cues) rather than specific changes (i.e., declined activation or utilization of certain cues) in metamemory monitoring. Also, changes in confidence of learning and in EF ability contribute to the preservation and decline of memory during aging, respectively. Therefore, boosting confidence during encoding and enhancing EF skills might be complementary memory intervention strategies for older adults. Copyright © 2024 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Early online dateJan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2024


Yeung, M. K. (2024). Metamemory and executive function mediate the age-related decline in memory. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. Advance online publication.


  • Aging
  • Metamemory
  • Metacognition
  • Memory
  • Learning


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