The mind knows what the eyes cannot see: Metacognition in children and chimpanzees

Karri Neldner (2011). The mind knows what the eyes cannot see: Metacognition in children and chimpanzees Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Karri Neldner
Thesis Title The mind knows what the eyes cannot see: Metacognition in children and chimpanzees
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10-12
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Dr Emma Collier-Baker
Total pages 84
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary The beneficial ability to access one’s own knowledge is commonly termed “metacognition” (Terrace & Metcalfe, 2005). Previous research has suggested that this ability may not be unique to humans, and may also exist in our close relatives. However, to date, the differential paradigms employed in examining this ability and the alternate explanations proposed, have made comparative inference difficult. The current study therefore investigated the performance of forty-four 3.5 and 5.5 year-old children, and two chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), on a naturalistic search paradigm designed to assess metacognition. The task involved hiding a large reward within one of four red cups. In half the trials baiting of the cup was visible to the subject, and in the other half it was concealed by a barrier. In a key manipulation, subjects were presented with an additional cup on half the trials that contained a smaller reward. This cup allowed subjects the opportunity to “escape” from choosing a red cup. If children and chimpanzees are able to assess a personal lack of knowledge, then they should select the escape option more on trials in which the baiting of the red cup was concealed. The findings of this study suggest that 3.5- and 5.5 year-old children, and two chimpanzees, possess the capacity to know what they do not know. They selectively chose an escape cup to receive a small reward when they did not know the location of the large reward. These findings pose important phylogenetic and ontogenetic questions, such as whether secondary or metarepresentational understanding is involved in this ability.
Keyword Metacognition
Children and chimpanzees

 
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