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Evaluating information-seeking approaches to metacognition

Author(s): Jonathon D. CRYSTAL, Allison L. FOOTE

Journal: Current Zoology
ISSN 1674-5507

Volume: 57;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 531;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Metacognition | Metacognitive control | Information seeking | Metacognitive monitoring | Information monitoring | Comparative cognition

Metacognition has been divided into information monitoring and control processes. Monitoring involves knowing that you know or do not know some information without taking corrective action. Control involves taking corrective action based on the knowledge that you know or do not know some information. In comparative metacognition, considerable attention has been paid toward critically assessing putative evidence for information monitoring in non-human animals. However, less attention has been paid toward critically evaluating evidence for control processes in animals. We briefly review a critique of information-monitoring in animals. Next, we apply these concepts to a number of studies that focus on information seeking in animals. The main type of evidence for control processes in animals come from tube tipping experiments. Before having the opportunity to search for the bait in these experiments, the subject sometimes observes opaque tubes being baited but is sometimes prevented from seeing the baiting. The observations that the subjects look more if baiting was not seen and are more accurate if baiting was seen have been taken as evidence for metacognition in information-seeking experiments. We propose simple alternative hypotheses that are sufficient to explain putative evidence for information seeking in animals without positing metacognition. The alternative explanation focuses on two relatively simple principles: First, an animal has a default “look before you go” response which supersedes random searches in space. Second, spatially guided behavior follows a default rule of “go where something good is.” These principles can explain the results of tube tipping experiments without proposing metacognition [Current Zoology 57 (4): 531–542, 2011].

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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