Alzheimer's disease can spare local metacognition despite global anosognosia: revisiting the confidence-accuracy relationship in episodic memory

Neuropsychologia. 2012 Jul;50(9):2356-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.06.005. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) can impair metacognition in addition to more basic cognitive functions like memory. However, while global metacognitive inaccuracies are well documented (i.e., low deficit awareness, or anosognosia), the evidence is mixed regarding the effects of AD on local or task-based metacognitive judgments. Here we investigated local metacognition with respect to the confidence-accuracy relationship in episodic memory (i.e., metamemory). AD and control participants studied pictures of common objects and their verbal labels, and then took forced-choice picture recollection tests using the verbal labels as retrieval cues. We found that item-based confidence judgments discriminated between accurate and inaccurate recollection responses in both groups, implicating relatively spared metamemory in AD. By contrast, there was evidence for global metacognitive deficiencies, as AD participants underestimated the severity of their everyday problems compared to an informant's assessment. Within the AD group, individual differences in global metacognition were related to recollection accuracy, and global metacognition for everyday memory problems was related to task-based metacognitive accuracy. These findings suggest that AD can spare the confidence-accuracy relationship in recollection tasks, and that global and local metacognition measures tap overlapping neuropsychological processes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agnosia / psychology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Judgment / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology