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DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-W055-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved January 21, 2018, from

Article Summary

It has often been claimed that metacognition should be defined as “cognition about one’s own cognition,” “knowledge about one’s own knowledge,” or “thinking about one’s own thinking” (Carruthers 2011; Nelson and Narens 1992; Perner 2012). These formulations, however, are now often seen as unduly restricting the scope of metacognition to a form of reflective judgment. There is evidence that agents with no concept of perception or knowledge, such as monkeys and young children, are nevertheless able to assess when they can confidently engage in a task (such as finding an object, discriminating visual patterns, or recognizing whether an item was already presented) (Hampton 2009). On an alternative definition, then, metacognition is the ability to evaluate whether one is likely to achieve a specific cognitive goal or to have successfully achieved it. These evaluations jointly contribute to the control of one’s actions. They allow agents to select contextually efficient cognitive actions, such as trying or not trying to remember the location of an object, and to decide whether or not to rely on a specific cognitive output to act on the world. In both cases, on this broader definition, agents may rely either on the degree of confidence that they experience (a noetic feeling), or on what they judge to be the case given their background beliefs and concept-based predictions (Arango-Muñoz 2011; Koriat and Levy-Sadot 1999; Proust 2007, 2013, 2015a). Metacognition so conceived is distributed in domain-specific abilities and involved in the regulation of mental actions, the distribution of resources between rival processes, and the regulation of one’s own emotions. Inter-agent metacognitive control is also exemplified in the pragmatic principles of conversation first explored by Paul Grice and in collective forms of epistemic investigation and decision-making (such as in scientific research).

Citing this article:
Proust, Joëlle. Metacognition, 2017, doi:10.4324/0123456789-W055-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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