Judgments of learning reflect the Animacy advantage for memory, but not beliefs about the effect

Carlee M. DeYoung, Michael J. Serra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


People are more likely to recall animate (living) concepts than they are to recall inanimate (non- living) concepts. This finding is known as the animacy advantage in memory. Despite the frequent occurrence of this effect, we do not know if people are metacognitively aware of it, or how such knowledge relates to memory judgments such as judgments of learning (JOLs) for animate and inanimate memory materials. Across multiple experiments, participants studied and made JOLs for lists containing either animate and inanimate words for a free-recall test or for animate and inanimate word pairs for a cued-recall test. They also indicated their beliefs regarding whether they thought that animate items were more, less, or equally as memorable as inanimate items. Although we consistently obtained the animacy advantage for both free-recall and cued-recall tests, this advantage occurred regardless of participants’ stated beliefs about the effect. More important, participants mostly judged animate items to be more memorable than inanimate items, regardless of their beliefs. These results suggest that, in this context, participants do not use their beliefs as a determinant for their JOLs. Rather, some factor(s) related to the memory advantage for animate over inanimate items might have affected participants’ JOLs to produce this pattern. The results also demonstrate that researchers cannot infer people’s metacognitive beliefs directly from JOLs. Instead, we argue that in order to conclude that beliefs about a cognitive factor are a major basis of metacognitive judgments, those beliefs must moderate the effect of that factor on the judgments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-747
Number of pages37
JournalMetacognition and Learning
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Adaptive memory
  • Animacy advantage
  • Judgments of learning (JOLs)
  • Metacognitive beliefs
  • Metamemory


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