Metacognition about the past and future: quantifying common and distinct influences on prospective and retrospective judgments of self-performance


  • Fleming Stephen M.
  • Massoni Sébastien
  • Gajdos Thibault
  • Vergnaud Jean-Christophe


  • Metacognitionconfidenceperceptionpsychophysicscomputational modeling

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Metacognitive judgments of performance can be retrospective (such as confidence in past choices) or prospective (such as a prediction of success). Several lines of evidence indicate that these two aspects of metacognition are dissociable, suggesting they rely on distinct cues or cognitive resources. However, because prospective and retrospective judgments are often elicited and studied in separate experimental paradigms, their similarities and differences remain unclear. Here we characterize prospective and retrospective judgments of performance in the same perceptual discrimination task using repeated stimuli of constant difficulty. Using an incentive-compatible mechanism for eliciting subjective probabilities, subjects expressed their confidence in past choices together with their predictions of success in future choices. We found distinct influences on each judgment type: retrospective judgments were strongly influenced by the speed and accuracy of the immediately preceding decision, whereas prospective judgments were influenced by previous confidence over a longer time window. In contrast, global levels of confidence were correlated across judgments, indicative of a domain-general overconfidence that transcends temporal focus.

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