CIGEV, area gerontology: Research on Lifespan, Multidirectionality and Plasticity – Director: Matthias Kliegel

Does a Metacognition Deficit Underly the Real World/Laboratory Prospective Memory Paradox in Healthy and Pathological Aging?


The present project targets the role of metacognition in the so called age prospective memory paradox. Prospective memory describes the processes and skills required to initiate and perform delayed intentions at a specific point in the future. While it has been demonstrated that tasks carried out in a laboratory setting show an age deficit, naturalistic tasks carried out in everyday environments actually show age-related benefits. This pattern has been called the age prospective memory paradox.

The present projects tests whether this paradoxical pattern is due to metacognition, based on the capacity to monitor our cognitive abilities and put in place strategies to overcome potential weaknesses. It is the general hypothesis of the current project that older adults will – due to greater experience – be better than younger adults in using their metacognitive knowledge and strategies in everyday life while the opposite is expected for laboratory tasks.


Three behavioral studies test healthy younger and older adults on standard laboratory and naturalistic PM tasks. Participants have to predict their performance and report on feelings of knowing. Building up on these results, it will be investigated how feedback on prior PM performance might change PM by more realistic metacognitive knowledge and strategies.

Selected publications

  • Cauvin, S., Moulin, C., Souchay, C., Schnitzspahn, K., & Kliegel, M. (2018). Laboratory vs. naturalistic prospective memory task predictions: Young adults are overconfident outside of the laboratory. Memory, 1-11. doi:10.1080/09658211.2018.1540703
  •  Schnitzspahn, K. M., Zeintl, M., Jäger, T., & Kliegel, M. (2011). Metacognition in Prospective Memory: Are Performance Predictions Accurate? Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology / Revue canadienne de psychologie experimentale, 65(1), 19-26. doi:10.1037/a0022842