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Re-evaluating self-reports of memory: Do affect and personality moderate the accuracy of subjective memory complaints?

In one study we aimed to examine the role of age and premorbid intelligence (IQ) in suppressing the relationship between subjective memory complaints (SMCs) and raw score memory performance. We used a community sample of older adults aged 66–90 years (N=121) to test whether the inclusion of age and a premorbid IQ measure in multiple regression analyses increased semipartial correlations of raw score memory performance in predicting SMCs. Rank contrast correlations were also carried out to observe how age and premorbid IQ are related to complaint–performance congruency. Measures utilized in the study included the Memory Functioning Questionnaire (for SMCs), Visual Reproduction and Logical Memory Subtests (memory performance), and the National Adult Reading Test (premorbid IQ). Inclusion of age and premorbid IQ in the multiple regression analyses increased semipartial correlations for all raw score measures of memory. Both age and premorbid IQ were significantly related to complaint–performance congruency, whereby older participants and those with lower premorbid IQ scores rated their memory abilities more leniently than younger and higher premorbid IQ participants. The results suggest differences in age and premorbid IQ play a small role in suppressing the relationship between SMCs and memory performance when utilizing raw score measures of memory.

In another study we aimed to examine whether depressive symptomatology is a useful predictor of subjective memory complaints in community-dwelling older adults, beyond the predictive utility already provided by memory performance and characteristics of personality.Using hierarchical regression, we examined the relationship between depressive symptomatology and subjective memory complaints, controlling for age, gender, education, memory performance, conscientiousness and neuroticism. We examined a sample of community-dwelling older adults aged 66 to 90 years (N = 177) who responded to a newspaper advertisement for a memory study in Perth, Western Australia. Measures utilised in the study included the General Frequency of Forgetting scale (for memory complaints), Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (for depressive symptomatology), NEO-Five Factor Inventory (for conscientiousness and neuroticism) and the Visual Reproduction and Logical Memory subtests from the Wechsler Memory Scale – 4th Edition (for visual and verbal memory). The hierarchical regression analysis indicated that whilst depressive symptomatology significantly predicted memory complaints after variance associated with age, gender, education, memory performance and conscientiousness was partialled out, it accounted for almost none of the variance in complaints when neuroticism was partialled out. The well-established relationship between depression and memory complaints may exist in some community-dwelling older adult populations only on account of the manner in which both are associated with neuroticism.


Mr Matt Merema (PhD Candidate)
Professor Craig Speelman

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