Relational memory and self-efficacy measures reveal distinct profiles of subjective memory concerns in older adults

Heather D. Lucas, Jim M. Monti, Edward McAuley, Patrick D. Watson, Arthur F. Kramer, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Subjective memory concerns (SMCs) in healthy older adults are associated with future decline and can indicate preclinical dementia. However, SMCs may be multiply determined, and often correlate with affective or psychosocial variables rather than with performance on memory tests. Our objective was to identify sensitive and selective methods to disentangle the underlying causes of SMCs. Method: Because preclinical dementia pathology targets the hippocampus, we hypothesized that performance on hippocampally dependent relational memory tests would correlate with SMCs. We thus administered a series of memory tasks with varying dependence on relational memory processing to 91 older adults, along with questionnaires assessing depression, anxiety, and memory self-efficacy. We used correlational, regression, and mediation analyses to compare the variance in SMCs accounted for by these measures. Results: Performance on the task most dependent on relational memory processing showed a stronger negative association with SMCs than did other memory performance metrics. SMCs were also negatively associated with memory self-efficacy. These 2 measures, along with age and education, accounted for 40% of the variance in SMCs. Self-efficacy and relational memory were uncorrelated and independent predictors of SMCs. Moreover, self-efficacy statistically mediated the relationship between SMCs and depression and anxiety, which can be detrimental to cognitive aging. Conclusions: These data identify multiple mechanisms that can contribute to SMCs, and suggest that SMCs can both cause and be caused by age-related cognitive decline. Relational memory measures may be effective assays of objective memory difficulties, while assessing self-efficacy could identify detrimental affective responses to cognitive aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-578
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cognitive aging
  • Relational memory
  • Self-efficacy
  • Subjective memory concerns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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