MiniMeta: in search of minimal criteria for metacognition

Josef Perner

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI:
MiniMeta: in search of minimal criteria for metacognition

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This chapter scrutinizes the rich pool of behavioural measures of metacognition used with animals for devising new procedures that do not depend on verbalizing mental states for assessing metacognition in young children and infants. To help select the optimal methods I formulated two conceptual problems besetting the metacognitive interpretation of behavioural data: (1) does the critical behaviour depend only on the animal’s cognitive ability to be in a particular mental state or does it depend on the animal’s metacognitive awareness of being in that state? (2) Does the critical behaviour really depend on recognizing being in a particular mental state (e.g. being disgusted, being uncertain) or is it dependent only on typically confounded external conditions eliciting these states (e.g. facing something disgusting, facing a difficult task)? The assessment concludes that no single task can unambiguously answer these questions. This chapter's contribution to devising behavioural tests of metacognition for children consists only in formulating my two problems and setting the bar of criteria for future investigations.

Keywords: metacognition; animals; children; awareness; mental states; comparative psychology; developmental psychology; behaviour; learning

Chapter.  14450 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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