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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 May 19;367(1594):1310-21. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0416.

Metacognition in human decision-making: confidence and error monitoring.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, UK.


People are capable of robust evaluations of their decisions: they are often aware of their mistakes even without explicit feedback, and report levels of confidence in their decisions that correlate with objective performance. These metacognitive abilities help people to avoid making the same mistakes twice, and to avoid overcommitting time or resources to decisions that are based on unreliable evidence. In this review, we consider progress in characterizing the neural and mechanistic basis of these related aspects of metacognition-confidence judgements and error monitoring-and identify crucial points of convergence between methods and theories in the two fields. This convergence suggests that common principles govern metacognitive judgements of confidence and accuracy; in particular, a shared reliance on post-decisional processing within the systems responsible for the initial decision. However, research in both fields has focused rather narrowly on simple, discrete decisions-reflecting the correspondingly restricted focus of current models of the decision process itself-raising doubts about the degree to which discovered principles will scale up to explain metacognitive evaluation of real-world decisions and actions that are fluid, temporally extended, and embedded in the broader context of evolving behavioural goals.

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