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Metacognition of internally-generated processes

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Metacognition (typically defined as “cognition about cognition”) allows us to monitor our own thoughts and feelings. So broadly understood, metacognition can be applied to a wide range of mental domains. For example, we use metacognition to monitor our perception of events generated in the external world and to seek further evidence if we are unsure of what we have perceived. We can also accurately report mental states generated internally, like the contents of our thoughts, the focus of our attention or our intentions to move.

Despite the wide and disparate range of domains on which metacognition operates, most experiments have focussed on perception, perhaps because this is the most straightforward approach. It is relatively easy to present to participants visual, auditory or tactile stimuli that can be carefully controlled, in order to measure metacognitive ability independently from the associated perceptual ability. On the other hand, studying metacognition of internally-generated processes is much harder. But it is unknown whether the same metacognitive mechanisms operate across different domains (domain-generality), or whether each domain relies on independent mechanisms (domain-specificity). Hence, it is critical to explicitly study metacognitive monitoring in different domains and the relationships between them.

In this talk, I will present some experiments showing how metacognition of internal processes can be measured, and show that it does not always correlate with perceptual metacognition. I will discuss what we can learn from these experiments about about metacognition in general.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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