Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Isaacson, E. 2019. An Examination of Awareness and Metacognition in Memory. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Elizabeth Isaacson 2019


A considerable amount of research has demonstrated that older individuals exhibit substantial deficits in memory as a function of the normal aging process. It is not the case, however, that people cannot overcome these memory deficits: studies have previously demonstrated that older adults exhibit higher selectivity in terms of which items they process, such that important items are well processed and are subsequently better remembered (Castel, Balota, & McCabe, 2009; Castel et al., 2011). The purpose of the present thesis is to determine whether similar deficits and compensatory strategies are also exhibited in other populations (e.g., younger adults) and whether these strategies affect long-term memory in a subsequent recognition task. Moreover, while selectivity has been extensively studied, it is unclear whether the strategies employed are conscious or whether individuals are exhibiting a preference for certain types of information in the absence of actual awareness. To that end, we also examine metacognitive awareness by having participants judge their performance in real-time. Participants played a memory game and attempted to maximize their score during a later recall test. We found that while individuals with either high or low selectivity do not differ in overall memory capacity, there is a substantial difference in their metacognitive confidence ratings. Further, there was no difference in recognition performance, despite highly selective people having better recalled high point value words. Interestingly, those high in selectivity were significantly less confident than those low in selectivity, regardless of their performance, which suggests that selectivity may be a compensatory strategy for individuals who are not confident in their memory abilities.