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Metacognitive judgements of perceptual-motor steering performance

Mole, CD, Jersakova, R, Kountouriotis, GK, Moulin, CJA and Wilkie, RM (2018) Metacognitive judgements of perceptual-motor steering performance. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71 (10). pp. 2223-2234. ISSN 1747-0218

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Control of skilled actions requires rapid information sampling and processing, which may largely be carried out subconsciously. However, individuals often need to make conscious strategic decisions that ideally would be based upon accurate knowledge of performance. Here we determined the extent to which individuals have explicit awareness of their steering performance (conceptualised as ‘metacognition’). Participants steered in a virtual environment along a bending road whilst attempting to keep within a central demarcated target zone. Task demands were altered by manipulating locomotor speed (fast/slow) and the target zone (narrow/wide). All participants received continuous visual feedback about position in zone, and one sub-group were given additional auditory warnings when exiting/entering the zone. At the end of each trial participants made a metacognitive evaluation: the proportion of the trial they believed was spent in the zone. Overall, whilst evaluations broadly shifted in line with task demands, participants showed limited calibration to performance. Regression analysis showed that evaluations were influenced by two components: i) direct monitoring of performance, and ii) indirect task heuristics estimating performance based on salient cues (e.g. speed). Evaluations often weighted indirect task heuristics inappropriately, but the additional auditory feedback improved evaluations seemingly by reducing this weighting. These results have important implications for all motor tasks where conscious cognitive control can be used to influence action selection.

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