Correcting a metacognitive error: feedback increases retention of low-confidence correct responses

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2008 Jul;34(4):918-28. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.34.4.918.


Previous studies investigating posttest feedback have generally conceptualized feedback as a method for correcting erroneous responses, giving virtually no consideration to how feedback might promote learning of correct responses. Here, the authors show that when correct responses are made with low confidence, feedback serves to correct this initial metacognitive error, enhancing retention of low-confidence correct responses. In 2 experiments, subjects took an initial multiple-choice test on general knowledge facts and made a confidence judgment after each response. Feedback was provided for half of the questions, and retention was assessed by a final cued-recall test. Taking the initial test improved retention relative to not testing, and feedback further enhanced performance. Consistent with prior research, feedback improved retention by allowing subjects to correct initially erroneous responses. Of more importance, feedback also doubled the retention of correct low-confidence responses, relative to providing no feedback. The function of feedback is to correct both memory errors and metacognitive errors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cues
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Retention, Psychology*