Chapter

Seeking information in non-human animals: weaving a metacognitive web

Josep Call

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646739.003.0005
Seeking information in non-human animals: weaving a metacognitive web

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Over the last decade, studies on metacognition have been playing an increasingly prominent role in the field of animal cognition. Although a growing number of studies have documented responses consistent with metacognition, currently there is some debate about their proper interpretation. This chapter reviews the evidence that has accumulated in the last decade in the so-called information-seeking paradigm, which involves confronting subjects with two or more containers where food can be hidden. Researchers have manipulated several variables including the visibility of the baiting, the food type, and the time since the baiting took place. To get the food, subjects have to select the baited container but before they do so, they can, if they wish, look inside the container to verify its contents. Although the initial results could be explained as a result of random search, response competition, or perceiving anxiety rather than monitoring memories, recent findings have in turn challenged each of these alternative explanations. Information seeking in the great apes can be characterized as targeted (i.e. individuals do not search randomly), integrated (i.e. individuals can incorporate multiple types of information into their decision, including information derived by inference), and facultative (i.e. subjects can increase or decrease their searches depending on the information that they possess and the cost of searching and/or choosing wrongly). These findings, together with those from other metacognition paradigms, suggest that the great apes have some access to the causes of their uncertainty, and they can flexibly deploy means to remedy this situation.

Keywords: metacognition; information-seeking; apes; uncertainty monitoring; comparative psychology; problem solving

Chapter.  8644 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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