Metacognitive ability predicts learning cue-stimulus associations in the absence of external feedback

Abstract : Learning how certain cues in our environment predict specific states of nature is an essential ability for survival. However learning typically requires external feedback, which is not always available in everyday life. One potential substitute for external feedback could be to use the confidence we have in our decisions. Under this hypothesis, if no external feedback is available, then the agents’ ability to learn about predictive cues should increase with the quality of their confidence judgments (i.e. metacognitive efficiency). We tested and confirmed this novel prediction in an experimental study using a perceptual decision task. We evaluated in separate sessions the metacognitive abilities of participants (N = 65) and their abilities to learn about predictive cues. As predicted, participants with greater metacognitive abilities learned more about the cues. Knowledge of the cues improved accuracy in the perceptual task. Our results provide strong evidence that confidence plays an active role in improving learning and performance.
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Marine Hainguerlot, Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, Vincent de Gardelle. Metacognitive ability predicts learning cue-stimulus associations in the absence of external feedback. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, 8 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41598-018-23936-9⟩. ⟨hal-01761531⟩

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