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Neural correlates of metacognitive ability and of feeling confident: A large scale fMRI study

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Trautwein,  Fynn-Mathis
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Böckler,  Anne
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Kanske,  Philipp
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Molenberghs_2016.pdf
(Publisher version), 414KB

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Citation

Molenberghs, P., Trautwein, F.-M., Böckler, A., Singer, T., & Kanske, P. (2016). Neural correlates of metacognitive ability and of feeling confident: A large scale fMRI study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(12), 1942-1951. doi:10.1093/scan/nsw093.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-A212-0
Abstract
One important aspect of metacognition is the ability to accurately evaluate one’s performance. People vary widely in their metacognitive ability and in general are too confident when evaluating their performance. This often leads to poor decision making with potentially disastrous consequences. To further our understanding of the neural underpinnings of these processes, this fMRI study investigated inter-individual differences in metacognitive ability and effects of trial-by-trial variation in subjective feelings of confidence when making metacognitive assessments. Participants (N = 308) evaluated their performance in a high-level social and cognitive reasoning task. The results showed that higher metacognitive accuracy was associated with a decrease in activation in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex, an area previously linked to metacognition on perception and memory. Moreover, the feeling of confidence about one’s choices was associated with an increase of activation in reward, memory and motor related areas including bilateral striatum and hippocampus, while less confidence was associated with activation in areas linked with negative affect and uncertainty, including dorsomedial prefrontal and bilateral orbitofrontal cortex. This might indicate that positive affect is related to higher confidence thereby biasing metacognitive decisions towards overconfidence. In support, behavioural analyses revealed that increased confidence was associated with lower metacognitive accuracy.