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The Royal Society | 11:56


Hello, and welcome to another Royal Society publishing video podcast. Philosophical Transactions B have published a theme issue or metacognition. And today I'm talking to two of the guest editors of the issue. Professor Chris Firth and Dr. Steve Fleming. So Steve, can you explain to me what exactly is metacognition?

Metacognition is thinking about thinking. And it occurs when we self reflect on our decisions on our memories on our perceptions of the world. And a nice example is when our reflection, self reflection, separates away from the underlying cognitive process. So one example would be in memory. If I asked you, what's Elton John's real name, for instance, you might know that you know, the answer. But you can't quite get it yet. 

But if you spend long enough, you'll have this feeling on the tip of your tongue, that there's something there, and eventually it will come to light. And so this is an example. It's quite a strange example, because it suggests that there are parts of the brain that know about your memory, but they can't get it. But the whole brain is carrying out all our functions memory perception, decision making. 

So it suggests that there's a separation here between something that's matter level that's monitoring another level. And that's part of the way you can start investigating metacognition, you can start asking people to reflect upon their ongoing mental processes,

I guess I could just sort of approach this as rather than talking about thinking about thinking, they talk about monitoring and control. And an example would be when you're doing something like typing, you monitor what you're doing. So you notice if you've made an error, and then you slow down, which is the control bit to prevent the error happening in the future? And I guess an interesting question is to what if you've defined it in those terms? how closely does it relate to self reflection? And metacognition in that sense?

And how does metacognition relate to consciousness? First of all, there's some metacognition that may not be conscious that we certainly do spend a lot of time thinking about what we're doing. But there's also aspects of consciousness that don't seem to be metacognitive in the sense that I'm simply aware, and I'm not aware that I'm aware.

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