The emergence of metacognition: affect and uncertainty in animals

In Michael J. Beran, Johannes Brandl, Josef Perner & Joëlle Proust (eds.), The foundations of metacognition. Oxford University Press. pp. 76 (2012)
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Abstract

This chapter situates the dispute over the metacognitive capacities of non-human animals in the context of wider debates about the phylogeny of metarepresentational abilities. This chapter clarifies the nature of the dispute, before contrasting two different accounts of the evolution of metarepresentation. One is first-person-based, claiming that it emerged initially for purposes of metacognitive monitoring and control. The other is social in nature, claiming that metarepresentation evolved initially to monitor the mental states of others. These accounts make differing predictions about what we should expect to find in non-human animals: the former predicts that metacognitive capacities in creatures incapable of equivalent forms of mindreading should be found, whereas the latter predicts that they should not. The chapter elaborates and defend the latter form of account, drawing especially on what is known about decision-making and metacognition in humans. In doing so the chapter shows that so-called ‘uncertainty-monitoring’ data from monkeys can just as well be explained in non-metarepresentational affective terms, as might be predicted by the social-evolutionary account

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Peter Carruthers
University of Maryland, College Park

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