Metacognition monitoring their metacognition compared to younger children.

Metacognition is
the idea of “cognition about cognition”, or consciously thinking about our
cognitive processes (Flavell, 1976). The origins of this concept lead back to
the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322BC), but was officially labelled by
American developmental psychologist, John H. Flavell (1976). He used this idea to
study the knowledge and cognitive awareness of children. The “Raven’s
Progressive Matrices” or RPM, first developed by J. C. Raven (1936), provided a
nonverbal evaluation of intelligence through assessing participants’ visual
reasoning. The current research presents to the participants a revised version
of the RPM (Raven & Court, 1998), examining the extent metacognitive
evaluations influence participants’ underlying performance.


Flavell divides metacognition into two
separate components: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences
(Livingston, 1997). Since metacognition focused primarily on metacognitive
abilities as they develop with age (Cary & Reder, 2002), Flavell’s study
aimed to identify how different aged subjects monitored their cognition while
in social settings (Flavell, 1979), with the results suggesting older
participants with developed cognitive knowledge are more effective in monitoring
their metacognition compared to younger children. However, more recent work has
observed that although cognition tends to improve with age, children as young
as 3-5 are able to understand their cognitive behaviours at a very simple level
(Whitebread, Coltman, Pasternak, Sangster, Grau, Bingham, Almeqdad and
Demetriou, 2009). RPM tests are independent of language, reading and writing
skills. This practical application approach spread quickly and was used for
many purposes, e.g. acting as an entrance test to the armed forces and military
services. The findings from RPM study suggested that improvements in
performance reflected learning, as individuals learned to apply strategies
depending on the situation (Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky, 1982).

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Previous studies on metacognition and
RPM testing concluded that as the cognitive system develops, individuals become
more aware of their cognitive processes, thus affecting performance levels. In
the current study, we use these conclusions combined with the factor of
confidence to test the extent to which task performance is impacted due to
metacognitive evaluations, also known as reactivity. In Flavell’s experiment
(1979), the situation where participants who thought they had accurately
memorised a set of material but in fact, had not, brings some influence into
the current study where the effect awareness has on underlying performance is tested.
A recent study used error monitoring to compare the distinction between
metacognitive judgements of decision confidence and error likelihood (Yeung and
Summerfield, 2012), and another examined if reactivity would alter the decision
process (Petrusic and Baranski, 2003). Previous research is lacking in
connection between confidence evaluation and reactivity. It has been suggested
that there is an impact upon performance, but to what extent is something that
has yet to be established.


The current experiment design examines
reactivity, set out in three groups in which participants rated their
confidence while performing cognitive tasks (RPM). The current study
draws upon the factors of Flavell’s experiment (1979), assessing how confident
participants were about their response to the material, while incorporating the
decision alteration aspects of Petrusic and Baranki’s research (2003). However,
instead of using error likelihood present in Yeung and Summerfield’s study
(2012), the current study questions the participants’ likelihood of correctly
answering a question. The expectation is that if the idea of ‘confidence’ was
primed, an improvement would be seen in the RPM results compared to performing
the task without any metacognition awareness.


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