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Author Notes:

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Robert R. Hampton, Department of Psychology, 532 Kilgo Circle, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA. robert.hampton@emory.edu

Ben Basile, Victoria Templer, and Emily Brown provided comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


Research Funding:

Preparation of this manuscript was supported by NIH grant 1RO1MH082819-01A1, by Yerkes Center base grant No. RR-00165 awarded by the Animal Resources Program of the National Institutes of Health, and by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience under the STC Program of the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. IBN-9876754.


  • awareness
  • cognitive control
  • confidence
  • consciousness
  • declarative
  • explicit
  • introspection
  • memory
  • memory monitoring
  • metacognition
  • metamemory
  • perception
  • self-awareness
  • self-control
  • self-regulation
  • uncertainty

Multiple demonstrations of metacognition in nonhumans: Converging evidence or multiple mechanisms?


Journal Title:

Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews


Volume 4


, Pages 17-28

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Metacognition allows one to monitor and adaptively control cognitive processes. Reports from the last 15 years show that when given the opportunity, nonhuman animals selectively avoid taking difficult tests of memory or perception, collect more information if needed before taking tests, or “gamble” more food reward on correct than on incorrect responses in tests of memory and perception. I review representative examples from this literature, considering the sufficiency of four classes of mechanism to account for the metacognitive performance observed. This analysis suggests that many of the demonstrations of metacognition in nonhumans can be explained in terms of associative learning or other mechanisms that do not require invoking introspection or access to private mental states. Consideration of these accounts may prompt greater appreciation of the diversity of metacognitive phenomena and may inform theoretical positions about the nature of the mental representations underlying metacognition
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