Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Older adults perform less well on a variety of cognitive tasks and use efficient strategies less often than do younger adults. Recently, metacognitive processes have been implicated in explanation of these phenomena. For example, the elderly may use strategies less often because they may be less aware of cognitive performance than are younger adults. These hypotheses motivate study of metacognition across the lifespan.;Adult age differences in cognitive monitoring were examined in two studies across a variety of tasks. Recall and recognition tests were administered in both studies. A measure of practical problem-solving was included in the first study, and face-name learning and appointment keeping were assessed in the second study as examples of tasks presumably more relevant to adults in non-academic settings. In both studies, 48 younger and 48 older adults were required to make performance estimates either before study or after taking the test as a measure of monitoring across the study-test cycle. Despite age differences in performance on 6 of the 7 tasks, both age groups were comparably competent at monitoring all tasks.;A lack of age differences in metacognitive awareness does not imply that adults approach cognitive tasks in qualitatively similar ways, however. Therefore, in the second investigation, the motivational beliefs that adults make for their own cognitive performance were examined for the first time in an adult population. Adults were required to report the factors they believed influenced their performance and the memory strategies used for each task. A final questionnaire required subjects to rank order the importance of a list of causal factors.;There were important age differences in beliefs: the younger adults cited strategy use while older adults cited ability, effort, and age as important causal factors. Furthermore, within age groups, strategy attributions were associated with increased performance over ability, effort, and age attributions. These results are discussed in the context of the Good Strategy User model of efficient thinking and contrasted to expectations of current theory. Suggestions for future research with respect to additional components of the model and to retraining of beliefs are supplied.



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