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The reflective mind: computations supporting metacognitive awareness

Detail Summary
Date 29 January 2016
Time 16:00 - 17:00

Stephen M. Fleming

Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London

A remarkable feature of the human mind is its capacity for assessing or monitoring its own knowledge. While the majority of cognitive neuroscience focuses on how we perceive, learn and decide about the external world, much less is know about how people construct metacognitive beliefs and use these beliefs to guide behavior. In the lab we can study this process by asking people to rate their confidence in simple decision tasks, and assessing the correspondence between objective accuracy and subjective confidence. In the first half of my talk I will focus on leveraging individual differences in this measure to understand the neural substrates and domain-specificity of self-knowledge across different domains, such as perception and memory. In the second half of the talk I will zoom in on the level of single trials, and ask what are the mechanisms that support accurate metacognitive judgments on a moment-to-moment basis. I will suggest that a minimal computational basis for successful self-evaluation is a joint sensitivity to external stimuli and one’s actions in the world. In two recent studies we have probed the neural basis of this integration, leveraging functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation to track the joint influence of sensory evidence and motor output on subjective confidence. Together these studies indicate that self-knowledge is an active construction that rests on simple neural and computational building blocks.