Neil H. Schwartz
Psych 605
Three Terms: Organizing the Concept
Conceptual Anchoring
• Endogenous Constructivism
o Reflective abstraction of new or existing cognitive structures.
o Inside the head
o Emphasizes learner development instead of learner-environment
• Exogenous Constructivism
o Interaction of the person with their environment.
o Outside the head
o Emphasizes reciprocal determinism of the environment on the person–
mediated through behavior.
o Involves evaluations of performance, personal standards, valuations of
activities, and attributions.
• Dialectical Constructivsm
o Combines Endogenous and Exogenous constructivism
o Inside and outside the head.
o Both Endo and Exo features exist in a relation of reciprocal constraint and
o Endo and Exo are NOT mutually exclusive.
Inside the
Knowledge of Cognition
Self-regulatory Mechanisms
or Metacognitive
Control Processes
Cognitive monitoring
Awareness of Comprehension
Monitoring of task performance
during the process of performing
Checking the Outcome
Monitoring Effectiveness
Evaluating Strategies
Self Regulated Learning: Winne & Hadwin
• Learning occurs in 4 phases
Defining tasks
Setting goals and making plans
Using tactics to study
Making adaptations to metacognition
• Each phase is completed in terms of:
Conditions: Of the Learner
Beliefs and dispositions
Factors of motivation
Knowledge of the domain
Knowledge of the task
Knowledge of tactics and strategies
Conditions: Of the Task
• Instructional cues
• Time
• Social Context
• Criteria that a student believes is the end state of a
learning phase.
• Allows the student to know when a learning phase is
over or complete.
The actual processes used to manipulate information.
 They include searching, monitoring, assembling,
rehearsing, translating, etc.
 They are not metacognitive, but rather cognitive.
 They result in cognitive products; that is, information
for a particular stage.
• These are cognitive evaluations of the fit between
the standards and the products.
• Evaluations are metacognitive and iterative
• They manifest differently in each phase.
What a student produces from the recursive interaction
of Standards, Operations, & Evaluations
Different products are produced in each of the four
Products are the things that a student takes with him
from the task– e. g. understanding Winne’s model..
• Metacognition is a higher order agent overlooking and
governing cognition
• Metacognition draws on cognition
• Metacognitive knowledge is based on domain-specific
• Metacognition is typically private and unavailable to an
Conscious vs. Automatic Processes
Most metacognitive processes are automatic.
 They become conscious when an error occurs.
 When they are first learned or deployed, they are
intentional and typically conscious.
• The jury is still out on whether metacognitive skills are
domain general or specific.
Developmental Processes
Metacognition is related to theory of mind and
But, intelligence and metacognition are not the same
Metacognition develops first in separate domains and
later becomes generalized across domains.
Metacognition: A Simple
Metacognitive regulation is a coordinating
activity of bottom-up and top-down processes
Control is seen in conflict resolution,
error correction, inhibitory control,
planning, and resource allocation
Top down
Regulation of information
processing where attention is
allocated and cognitive strategies
are deployed to manage learning
Bottom up
Judgments of learning and feelings of
knowing are evaluated by the learner.
Monitoring is responsible for processes
of: error detection, attention, and source
monitoring in memory retrieval.
Nelson & Narens, 1990
Metacognition: A Neuroscience View
Interdependent top-down function of cognitive control
Why a Neuroscience Point
of View?
There is now “incontrovertible
evidence suggesting a trend
toward a cognitive neuroscience
perspective for many if not all
aspects of human cognition”
(Shimamura, 2000, p. 320).
Spatial resolution of event-related fMRI has
become extremely precise.
It is now possible to observe
metacognitive functions as in-vivo
brain tissue activation during
behavioral activity.
Theoretical conceptions of
metacognition can be validated
at a gross neuroanatomical level
to give meaning to the role of
metacognitive monitoring and
control during learning and
Major Neuroscience
Position on Metacogntion
• Separate but interactive frontal areas of the brain
are critically involved in higher order processes of
metacognitive monitoring and control. (McGlynn & Schacter, 1989;
Kaszniak and Zak, 1996; Mega & Cummings, 1994; Pannu and Kaszniak, 2005; Shallice, 1988; Stuss & Bensen, 1986, Stuss,
Shallice, Alexander & Picton, 1995; Umilta & Stablum, 1998).
Fernandez-Duque, Baird and Posner (2000) summed up the neurological
evidence this way:
“Neuroimaging studies have shown activation of a network of frontal areas in tasks of
executive control. The activated areas usually include the anterior cingulated and
supplementary motor area, the orbitofrontal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and
portions of the basal ganglia and the thalamus. The tasks that activate these areas typically
require subjects to deal with conflict, error, or emotion, therefore demanding effortful
cognitive processing (Bush et al., 1998; Bush, Luu, & Posner, 2000). These mental abilities
may be the building blocks that metacognitively-sophisticated thinkers use in their
achievement of complex tasks, such as problem solving, strategy selection, and decision
Prefrontal Cortex: Cortical
Monitoring & Control
• Cognitive control is a topdown function for each
of the integral working
memory functions,
monitored and controlled
by the prefrontal cortex.
• The prefrontal cortex
implements three
interdependent functions
of cognitive control—
o Maintenance
o Attentional Control
o Integration
Prefrontal Cortex: Cortical
Monitoring & Control
• Is the process of holding, in an active form,
a limited amount of task-relevant
information supplied by a preceding event.
• Appears to be the result of neurological
patterns of activation borne from specific
external inputs oscillating in a recurrent loop
between multiple networks of prefrontal and
other cortical cells in regions of the brain
that are specialized for the nature of the
input (Ranganath, 2006).
Attentional Control:
• Is the top-down selective activation of the
representations of task-relevant stimuli and
their corresponding responses;.
• Appears to operate in a biasing and
competitive fashion where neuronal
responses of the prefrontal cortex bias
neuronal responses in posterior parts of the
brain, creating a competition of activation
and suppression for the task-relevant and
task-irrelevant stimuli, respectively, required
for task performance (Miller & Cohen, 2001).
• Is the combination and reorganization of
information from different sources in the
service of controlling the execution of a
• Appears to be a hierarchically arranged
deployment of control, cascading down
from super-ordinate prefrontal cortical
modules specialized for large-scale
integration, to subordinate modules that are
relatively specialized for processing simple
tasks. (Koechlin, Ody & Kouneiher, 2003).
Prefrontal Cortex & Cortical Control
o There appear to be a least two types of these
top-down signals—one that serves to
enhance, and another that serves to
suppress, task-relevant information
o These types of signals are important because
enhancement and suppression mechanisms
may actually exist to control both cognitive
and metacognitive functions (Knight et al.
199; Shimamura, 2000).
• It is well documented that excitatory and
inhibitory mechanisms are pervasively
interleaved throughout the nervous
system, in spinal reflexes, cerebellar
outputs, and basal ganglia movement
control networks, etc.—indeed, at
multiple levels throughout the entire
• That means “by generating contrast via
both enhancements and suppressions…
top-down signals bias the likelihood of
successful representation of relevant
information in a competitive system”
(D’Esposito, 2006, p.768).
o In short, the top-down function and the
biasing effect, within the context of a
competitive system, could be a compelling
way to think about a neurological
explanation of metacognitive monitoring and
Metacognition and the
Embedded Processing Model
• Metacognition is manifest within the function of
cognitive—and hence, neuroanatomic—activity of
the brain best represented by the model of
embedded processes. (Cowan, 1999)
o The embedded processing model postulates the operation of a central
controller that supervises the preservation of information by iteratively
subjecting it to a recursion of attentional focus. (Cowan 1992, 1999).
• Recursion of attention focus is a reactivation strategy that is referred
to as “attentional refreshing”. (Lewandowsy &Oberauer, 2008)
• Based on a biased competition model of attention—recursion of
attention focus is volitional and selectively deployed (Desimone &
Duncan, 1995) relative to a prioritization of the relevant goals of a
task. That is, stimuli compete for selection at multiple levels of
representation, with the winner gaining control of both perceptual
and response systems.
o Neuroimaging and corroborating behavioral evidence support the
existence of the central controller. (Chein & Fiez, 2010)
Metacognition: A Closed Loop Model
Metacognitive monitoring and control: A closed neurocognitive loop
Metacognition: A Closed Loop Model
Metacognitive monitoring and
control is probably a reciprocal
function of the same neurologic
processes that excite and inhibit, in
a recursive fashion, the regions of
the brain responsible for two types
of activities involved in learning—
the activities involved in processing
the information itself relative to the
goals of a task—and, the activities
involved in processing (evaluating
and correcting) the original
activities deployed to seek goal
attainment—activities that are
The monitoring function is probably
principally attentional, and the
control function is principally
Metacognition: A Closed Loop Model
Attention is probably allocated to evaluate the
degree to which an individual is closer to the
goal—a matching-to-sample function; the
strategies are activated to change the person’s
processing approach (and hence the
corresponding brain activation) in meeting the
This alternating procedure is probably an
interleaved activation of excitatory and inhibitory
mechanisms based on two sources of information
and two sources of goals, exchanged in a
recursive fashion depending upon the degree to
which the goal is being met.
One source of information is composed of the stimuli
that comprise the task in the context of the original
task demands; the other is the information composed
of the internal representation of the assessment of the
correspondence between task demand and task
success and the information about effective
strategies for obtaining the success.
We suggest that there may be no difference in
the mechanisms operating between cognitive
and metacognitive processing when one
considers activation of regions of the brain.
Instead, it is the nature of the information being
processed in the system that differentiates the