Metacognition as a Precursor to Self-consciousness: Evolution, Development, and Epistemology
John David Smith Principal Investigator
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The term "metacognition" refers to the ability to monitor one's own thoughts, to judge the accuracy of our own conclusions and to adapt our behavior in response to those judgments. Like language and logic, metacognition is taken to be one of the more sophisticated functions of mind, and some researchers have claimed that it is a uniquely human ability. However, this claim is a topic of ongoing debate because research with non-human primates and other animals has provided evidence for at least the rudiments of metacognitive abilities.<br/><br/>With support of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Beran and his collaborators will join an international team of researchers to study the behavioral signs of metacognition in Rhesus monkeys, as well as human children and adults. The project is centered around testing the ability to judge whether a given problem is easy or difficult to solve relative to one's own cognitive abilities. The researchers have devised measures of metacognition that can be adopted to adults and children, as well as monkeys. The results of these comparative studies promise to shed new light on the continuities and discontinuities between human and animal minds.