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Humans have a capacity to become aware of thoughts and behaviours known as metacognition. Metacognitive efficiency refers to the relationship between subjective reports and objective behaviour. Understanding how this efficiency changes as we age is important because poor metacognition can lead to negative consequences, such as believing one is a good driver despite a recent spate of accidents. We quantified metacognition in two cognitive domains, perception and memory, in healthy adults between 18 and 84years old, employing measures that dissociate objective task performance from metacognitive efficiency. We identified a marked decrease in perceptual metacognitive efficiency with age and a non-significant decrease in memory metacognitive efficiency. No significant relationship was identified between executive function and metacognition in either domain. Annual decline in metacognitive efficiency after controlling for executive function was ∼0.6%. Decreases in metacognitive efficiency may explain why dissociations between behaviour and beliefs become more marked as we age.

Original publication




Journal article


Conscious Cogn

Publication Date





151 - 160


Aging, Awareness, Development, Lifespan, Metacognition, Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Cognition, Executive Function, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Psychomotor Performance, Visual Perception, Young Adult