Can younger and older adults judge the quality of their text summaries?

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Fulton, Erika Kathleen
Hertzog, Christopher
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Metacomprehension and aging is an understudied area of research, despite its relevance to education, social information exchange, and important work and life decisions. Results are mixed on whether older adult text comprehension, as measured by summaries, is impaired (Adams, 1991; Byrd, 1985; Jackson & Kemper, 1993) and studies of the ability to judge summary quality have not been reported in the literature. My dissertation assessed whether younger and older adults can accurately judge the quality of their text summaries and whether the summarizing goal (for professor/boss or an acquaintance/stranger) and working memory capacity affect comprehension monitoring performance. Participants showed some metacomprehension ability but with much room for improvement. According to traditional statistics used in metacognition studies, older adults were more often overconfident than younger adults, with comparatively greater age equivalency in the ability to discriminate among passages more or less well understood. Multilevel modeling (MLM) suggested a pattern marked by individual differences, better between-person than within-person accuracy, and more age equivalency. MLM also suggested a more important influence of working memory than did traditional statistics. Furthermore, although reading goal moderated some age effects, as measured by traditional analyses, its effects were largely independent of age, as measured by MLM. Although the need for improved metacomprehension, particularly for older adults, is apparent, the results suggest that task experience alone can induce more accurate judgments of text comprehension ability.
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