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When do we know that we do not know? An examination of metacognitive processes in visual working memory


Krasnoff, Julia; Oberauer, Klaus (2023). When do we know that we do not know? An examination of metacognitive processes in visual working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 49(9):1376-1395.

Abstract

This work investigates how people make judgments about the content of their visual working memory (VWM). Some studies on long-term memory suggest that people base those metacognitive judgments on the outcome of a retrieval attempt. In contrast, Son and Metcalfe (2005) observed that people identify poorly remembered items immediately, presumably by the lack of familiarity for the retrieval cue. We tested these two hypotheses in the context of metacognition in VWM. In three experiments, we investigated participants’ response behavior in a color reproduction task with a hidden color wheel. With this procedure, participants must search for the intended response, starting from a random color. We assumed that instant awareness of the inability to retrieve an information would be reflected in selecting the first, random color, rather than search for a particular color in the wheel. Although participants provided a substantial number of low-confidence responses, results of an adapted mixture modeling analysis yielded little evidence for quick guesses. Rather, participants consistently searched for a color (even with unfamiliar retrieval cues in Experiment 2), and only quickly guessed when being cued with objects at test that were not previously presented (Experiment 3). We conclude that people usually engage in retrieval attempts for providing judgments about their VWM, even when information is poorly remembered.

Abstract

This work investigates how people make judgments about the content of their visual working memory (VWM). Some studies on long-term memory suggest that people base those metacognitive judgments on the outcome of a retrieval attempt. In contrast, Son and Metcalfe (2005) observed that people identify poorly remembered items immediately, presumably by the lack of familiarity for the retrieval cue. We tested these two hypotheses in the context of metacognition in VWM. In three experiments, we investigated participants’ response behavior in a color reproduction task with a hidden color wheel. With this procedure, participants must search for the intended response, starting from a random color. We assumed that instant awareness of the inability to retrieve an information would be reflected in selecting the first, random color, rather than search for a particular color in the wheel. Although participants provided a substantial number of low-confidence responses, results of an adapted mixture modeling analysis yielded little evidence for quick guesses. Rather, participants consistently searched for a color (even with unfamiliar retrieval cues in Experiment 2), and only quickly guessed when being cued with objects at test that were not previously presented (Experiment 3). We conclude that people usually engage in retrieval attempts for providing judgments about their VWM, even when information is poorly remembered.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linguistics and Language, Language and Linguistics, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:20 Jan 2023 13:09
Last Modified:28 Feb 2024 02:44
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0278-7393
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0001211
PubMed ID:36548094
  • Content: Accepted Version
  • Language: English
  • Description: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.