Social context alters metacognition

Metacognition is the ability to monitor and evaluate one’s own cognitive processes. In social contexts, such performance evaluations are also influenced by the behavior of others, e.g. others’ decisions and actions. However, in tasks where the feedback of the ground truth is provided (e.g. the correct decision), people’s performance evaluations should be independent of others’ behavior. Here, we investigate this situation in an estimation task: participants made an estimate about the location of a visual stimulus, reported their confidence about that estimate and then observed a partners’ stimulus estimate as well as the true location of the stimulus. Participants were asked to evaluate and report their performance regularly during the experiments. We found that participants overestimated their performance when their partner’s stimulus estimates were less accurate than their own stimulus estimates and underestimated their performance when their partner’s stimulus estimates were more accurate. In a second experiment, we showed that the results of experiment 1 also hold when people can benefit from accurately tracking their partner’s and their own performance. In this experiment, participants were allowed to revise their initial stimulus estimate after having seen their partner’s estimate. In both experiments, participants reduced their confidence when their partner had superior accuracy and increased it when their partner had inferior accuracy relative to them. This effect was very small but the change in confidence correlated with the change in the performance estimates across participants. In summary, our result suggests that metacognitive accuracy is dynamically influenced by other people, potentially at the expense of our ability to accurately track our own performance. Our findings might have relevance to how we select partners to work with each other.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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