Monday, March 26, 2007

'Thinking about thinking' shown in Rats...

A simple experiment can be used to demonstrate 'thinking about thinking', or metacognition in humans, monkeys, and bottlenose dolphins. In dealing with uncertain situations, we more likely to decline a visual, auditory or memory discrimination task that can involve reward or punishment if we are uncertain of the discrimination (more/less, same/different) being requested. Thus we are testing possible future outcomes. This behavior has not been seen in pigeons and rats.

In a recent issue of Current Biology Foote and Crystal now:
demonstrate for the first time that rats are capable of metacognition—i.e., they know when they do not know the answer in a duration-discrimination test. Before taking the duration test, rats were given the opportunity to decline the test. On other trials, they were not given the option to decline the test. Accurate performance on the duration test yielded a large reward, whereas inaccurate performance resulted in no reward. Declining a test yielded a small but guaranteed reward. If rats possess knowledge regarding whether they know the answer to the test, they would be expected to decline most frequently on difficult tests and show lowest accuracy on difficult tests that cannot be declined. Our data provide evidence for both predictions and suggest that a nonprimate has knowledge of its own cognitive state.
PDE of article HERE.

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