Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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September 1, 2021


Smith, J. D., Couchman, J. J., & Beran, M. J. (2012). The highs and lows of theoretical interpretation in animal-metacognition research. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 367, 1297-1309.

Humans feel uncertain. They know when they do not know. These feelings and the responses to them ground the research literature on metacognition. It is a natural question whether animals share this cognitive capacity, and thus animal metacognition has become an influential research area within comparative psychology. Researchers have explored this question by testing many species using perception and memory paradigms. There is an emerging consensus that animals share functional parallels with humansí conscious metacognition. Of course, this research area poses difficult issues of scientific inference. How firmly should we hold the line in insisting that animalsí performances are low-level and associative? How high should we set the bar for concluding that animals share metacognitive capacities with humans? This area offers a constructive case study for considering theoretical problems that often confront comparative psychologists. The authors present this case study and address diverse issues of scientific judgement and interpretation within comparative psychology.

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