Metacognition in monkeys during an oculomotor task

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Mar;37(2):325-37. doi: 10.1037/a0021611.


This study investigated whether rhesus monkeys show evidence of metacognition in a reduced, visual oculomotor task that is particularly suitable for use in fMRI and electrophysiology. The 2-stage task involved punctate visual stimulation and saccadic eye movement responses. In each trial, monkeys made a decision and then made a bet. To earn maximum reward, they had to monitor their decision and use that information to bet advantageously. Two monkeys learned to base their bets on their decisions within a few weeks. We implemented an operational definition of metacognitive behavior that relied on trial-by-trial analyses and signal detection theory. Both monkeys exhibited metacognition according to these quantitative criteria. Neither external visual cues nor potential reaction time cues explained the betting behavior; the animals seemed to rely exclusively on internal traces of their decisions. We documented the learning process of one monkey. During a 10-session transition phase, betting switched from random to a decision-based strategy. The results reinforce previous findings of metacognitive ability in monkeys and may facilitate the neurophysiological investigation of metacognitive functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Signal Detection, Psychological
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Time Factors