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Keywords:

  • Alcohol Dependence;
  • Metacognition;
  • Memory Monitoring;
  • Autonoetic Consciousness;
  • Executive Functions

Background:  Alcoholism affects various cognitive processes, including components of memory. Metamemory, though of particular interest for patient treatment, has not yet been extensively investigated.

Methods:  A feeling-of-knowing (FOK) measure of metamemory was administered to 28 alcoholic patients and 28 healthy controls during an episodic memory task including the learning of 20 pairs of items, followed by a 20-minute delayed recall and a recognition task. Prior to recognition, participants rated their ability to recognize each nonrecalled word among 4 items. This episodic FOK measure served to compare predictions of future recognition performance and actual recognition performance. Furthermore, a subjective measure of metamemory, the Metamemory In Adulthood (MIA) questionnaire, was completed by patients and controls. This assessment of alcoholic patients’ metamemory profile was accompanied by an evaluation of episodic memory and executive functioning.

Results:  FOK results revealed deficits in accuracy, with the alcoholic patients providing overestimations. There were also links between FOK inaccuracy, executive decline, and episodic memory impairment in patients. MIA results showed that although alcoholics did display memory difficulties, they did not differ from controls on questions about memory capacity.

Conclusions:  Chronic alcoholism affects both episodic memory and metamemory for novel information. Patients were relatively unaware of their memory deficits and believed that their memory was as good as that of the healthy controls. The monitoring measure (FOK) and the subjective measure of metamemory (MIA) showed that patients with chronic alcoholism overestimated their memory capacities. Episodic memory deficit and executive dysfunction would explain metamemory decline in this clinical population.