Cognitive Psychology Class Notes > Metacognition

Definition of Metacognition:

  • "knowing about knowing"
  • knowledge and awareness of your own cognitive processes, how they function, when it's likely to falter, etc.

I don't recall

I understood this fairly well

I won't be able to solve this problem right away

I can't study with the TV on

Her name is on the tip of my tongue

Metacognitive Awareness and Monitoring:

  • retrospective monitoring
    • judgments about what was previously retrieved from memory
    • e.g. confidence judgments
  • prospective monitoring
    • predictive about information available or to be retrieved from memory
    • judgments about future responding

3 Types of Prospective Monitoring Judgments:

  1. Ease-of-learning (EOL) judgments
    • occur in advance of acquisition
    • predictions about what info and strategies will be the easiest to learn
  1. Judgments of learning (JOL)
    • occur during or after acquisition
    • predictions about future test performance on currently recallable items
  1. Feeling-of-knowing (FOK) judgments
    • occur during or after acquisition
    • judgments about a currently unrecallable item is known and/or will be remembered on a later memory test
    • for incorrectly or non-recalled items, FOK judgments are obtained by asking how likely Ss are to be able to identify the answer on a recognition test

Research in Metacognition:

Tip-of-the-Tongue (TOT) Phenomenon

  • Definition of TOT state:
    • information is available but not accessible from memory
    • usually parts of the information is accessible, but not enough to warrant a response
    • associated with FOK
  • Methods:
    • naming rare words from definitions (e.g. Brown & McNeill, 1966)
    • naming famous people from pictures
    • answering trivia questions
  • Results:
    • TOT levels are fairly low (BUT STILL OCCUR)
    • often recall the first letter and the number of syllables of the target when reporting a TOT state
    • names of famous people, acquaintances, and famous landmarks are especially susceptible to TOT states
  • What causes TOT states?
    • retrieval blocking:
      • activation of items in memory that are similar to the target (called 'interlopers') compete with the target during a memory searchthus, the retrieval of the target is suppressed
      • related words serve to block retrieval
    • incomplete activation:
      • an initial memory cue may not activate a target word or name enough for retrieval of target
      • related words facilitate eventual retrieval
  • How are TOT states resolved?
    • more resolutions occur when Ss varied their search strategies, rather than sticking to a single strategy
    • phonological cues, such as initials of famous names (Brennen et al., 1990) help to narrow search and resolve TOT state
  • Do TOT reports predict imminent recall?
    • immediate resolution:
      • 40-50% of reported TOTs are resolved within a few minutes (Brown, 1991)
      • associated with incomplete activation
    • delayed resolution:
      • 50-60% were NOT resolved in a short time (Brown, 1991)
      • associated with retrieval blocking
      • incubation effect......

Metacognition and Mount Everest (Nelson et al., 1990)

  • assessed memory for factual information ("What is the capital of Finland?")
  • assessed FOK judgments for unanswered or incorrect responses
  • tested at varying levels of elevation:
    • Katmandu (1,200 m)
    • Basecamp (5,400 m)
    • Camp 2 (6,500 m)
    • Camp 3 (7,100 m)
    • Basecamp (5,400 m)
    • Katmandu (1,200 m)
  • Results:
    • memory retrieval was unimpaired
    • ratings of FOK decreased, and remained low 1 week after returning to Katmandu
  • Conclusions
    • climbers at extreme altitudes become less confident in their future performance and decision-making
    • direct and long-lasting effect of hypoxia on brain mechanisms
    • similar results with individuals on diazepam (Valium)
      • should take these findings into account when psychologically treating someone on Valium

Metacognition and Alcohol Intoxication

  • Results:
    • memory retrieval is impaired
    • FOK judgments are unimpaired
  • Conclusions:
    • based on Nelson et al. (1990), hypoxia DOES NOT resemble overindulgence in alcohol as previously believed

Metacognition and Depressed Children (Lauer et al., 1994)

  • Method:
    • frequency of occurrence task (with pictures)Metamemory Battery (Belmont & Borkowski, 1988)
      • examines a child's metamnemonic knowledge and ability
  • Results:
    • both depressed and nondepressed children performed equally well on memory task
    • depressed children (aged 9-12 yrs) overestimated their memory abilities
  • Conclusions:
    • overestimation may be an attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy produced by overly critical thought processes overestimation may be part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, where depressives overestimate their abilities, consistently falling short of their expectations and thus finding more evidence that they are failures -- tend to set themselves up for failure by being unrealistic about their abilities
    • targeting such cognitive distortions can be a focal point of cognitive therapy for depression

Metacognition and College Learning

  • most students tend to OVERESTIMATE their knowledge of the course materials
  • students with lower grades tend to overestimate their knowledge more than students with higher grades
    • use stricter criteria for deciding that you "know" the material
    • You probably do NOT know the material if you cannot:
      • explain a theory, concept, or experiment to someone else
      • answer all the chapter review questions (without looking back)
      • define all the "new terms" at the end of each chapter (without looking back)