Journal of Population Ageing

, Volume 8, Issue 1–2, pp 71–99 | Cite as

Awareness of Memory Ability and Change: (In)Accuracy of Memory Self-Assessments in Relation to Performance

  • Elizabeth Hahn Rickenbach
  • Stefan Agrigoroaei
  • Margie E. Lachman
Article

Abstract

Little is known about subjective assessments of memory abilities and decline among middle-aged adults or their association with objective memory performance in the general population. In this study we examined self-ratings of memory ability and change in relation to episodic memory performance in two national samples of middle-aged and older adults from the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS II in 2005–06) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS; every 2 years from 2002 to 2012). MIDUS (Study 1) participants (N =3581) rated their memory compared to others their age and to themselves 5 years ago; HRS (Study 2) participants (N = 14,821) rated their current memory and their memory compared to 2 years ago, with up to six occasions of longitudinal data over 10 years. In both studies, episodic memory performance was the total number of words recalled in immediate and delayed conditions. When controlling for demographic and health correlates, self-ratings of memory abilities, but not subjective change, were related to performance. We examined accuracy by comparing subjective and objective memory ability and change. More than one third of the participants across the studies had self-assessments that were inaccurate relative to their actual level of performance and change, and accuracy differed as a function of demographic and health factors. Further understanding of self-awareness of memory abilities and change beginning in midlife may be useful for identifying early warning signs of decline, with implications regarding policies and practice for early detection and treatment of cognitive impairment.

Keywords

Subjective memory ability Subjective memory change Memory self-ratings Episodic memory Memory concerns Memory complaints Accuracy of self-assessments 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Hahn Rickenbach
    • 1
  • Stefan Agrigoroaei
    • 2
  • Margie E. Lachman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint Anselm CollegeManchesterUSA
  2. 2.Psychological Sciences Research InstituteUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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