Abstract (1976). He used this idea to study the

 

Abstract

Metacognition
is the process of thinking about thinking. Previous studies suggested there is some
link between metacognition and reactivity, and the current study aims to
further the research to determine the extent to which metacognitive evaluations
affects participants’ reactivity. The current study had participants perform
Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM, Raven and Court, 1998), consisting of three
conditions: confidence rating condition, priming condition and the control
condition. The results showed that there was a significantly higher performance
in the two groups where reactivity was involved (p = .032, .045). An
improvement to this study could be made by incorporating a large random sample
to increase variety and validity of research.

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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).

 

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.

Results

As seen in Figure 1, the participants of the
confidence rating condition (M = 8.1)
and the priming condition (M = 7.95)
scored a similar group mean result, while the control condition (M = 6.4) scored significantly lower. Participants
in the control condition were significantly less self-confident than the confidence
rating participants (p = .032) and
the priming participants (p = .045).
However, confidence rating and priming condition participants did not have a
significant difference in self-confidence level (p = .831).

 

 

Figure
1. The group means for No. of RPM items correct (out of 12) for the three participant conditions.

Discussion

By utilising the
RPM, participants in the confidence rating condition showed the highest
accuracy in cognitive tasks, suggesting that by following each question with a
confidence measure, ‘confidence’ was primed in the mind of the participants,
resulting in an increase in performance. Similarly, the priming condition were
also aware of their confidence and accuracy, producing similar results to the
confidence rating group. On the other hand, the control condition had no relation
to confidence evaluation, resulting in a significantly lower accuracy level.
Therefore, these results support the expectation that metacognitive behaviour
of ‘confidence’ priming would increase reactivity.

 

Flavell’s research (1979)
concluded that as the metacognitive system develops, metacognition becomes more
apparent. In the current study, all participants were of mature age, and when
asked about metacognitive evaluations, they were able to give thoroughly
considered responses, supporting Flavell’s theory. Similar to Petrusic and
Baranki’s study (2003), which questioned whether confidence would affect the
decision process, the current study goes further to attest the extent of the
effect. In comparison to Yeung and Summerfield’s study (2012), the current
study does not use error likelihood, but instead asks the participants how
confident they were about their answer being correct. These results suggested
that participants were more likely to be certain of themselves being correct,
and were rarely certain they had made an error, supporting the idea that
metacognition optimises cognitive behaviour.

 

The RPM is said to be
independent of language, reading and writing skills, so to improve the current
study, which only featured first year university students, further research
should test a large random sample including those without a high level of the
skills listed above to increase variety and validity of the results. Flavell’s
experiment (1979) featured participants of younger ages, something future
researchers in the area of confidence could consider, as it has been suggested
children at young ages are able to conduct metacognitive evaluations
(Whitebread et al., 2009), also pertaining to the RPM not requiring a high
level of cognitive skills. Flavell (1976) believed that interactions
among metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive experiments, goals, and actions is
what causes the occurrence of a wide variety of cognitive processes. Further
research could also place a focus on personal goals and the influence that has
upon confidence level and performance.

 

In the current
study, the extent of the affect to which metacognitive evaluations has upon the
perception of confidence and underlying cognitive performance is tested through
the use of RPM. This contribution adds further detail to previous study that
confirmed the idea that metacognitive awareness has some influence on
underlying performance (Yeung and Summerfield, 2012). The final results suggest
that metacognition has quite a significant impact on the reactivity of
participants, with confidence priming encouraging a positive reaction to the
material.