Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Robert Stuart Hall

Commitee Members

Duncan G. Campbell, Greg R. Machek, Caitlin A. Martin-Wagar, Kerry J. Haney


memory self-efficacy, cognitive reserve, working memory, aging, cognitive functioning


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Geropsychology


Dementia has been found to negatively affect multiple aspects of cognitive functioning. Despite an increasing prevalence of cognitive decline, many aging adults do not experience reduced cognitive functioning. The reason as to why some experience cognitive decline and others do not is still unclear. One leading theory thought to explain this phenomenon is the cognitive reserve theory (CR), which proposes that certain lifestyle factors (e.g., educational attainment, occupational attainment, and leisure activity participation) prolong one’s cognitive functioning and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Memory self-efficacy (MSE), defined as one’s beliefs in their memory ability, was found to be positively related to cognitive ability, but has not been studied in concert with CR factors. Additionally, working memory, which intersects memory and executive functioning, has seldom been examined in past CR studies. The present study sought to fill these gaps by constructing a hierarchical regression to analyze if MSE explains working memory variance over and above the existing CR factors. A sample of United States adults age 55+ were recruited via MTurk. MSE (β = .42, p < .001) explained variance in working memory over and above existing CR factors (i.e., educational attainment, occupational attainment, and leisure activity participation) in a hierarchical regression analysis, after controlling for age, depression, and anxiety, R2 change = .17, F(1, 186) = 40.70, p < .001. These findings illustrate that MSE explains a large, unique portion of variance that is not explained by CR factors commonly thought to explain cognitive functioning.



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