Inaugurating a new area of comparative cognition research

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (3):358-369 (2003)

Abstract

There was a strong consensus in the commentaries that animals' performances in metacognition paradigms indicate high-level decisional processes that cannot be explained associatively. Our response summarizes this consensus and the support for the idea that these performances demonstrate animal metacognition. We amplify the idea that there is an adaptive advantage favoring animals who can – in an immediate moment of difficulty or uncertainty – construct a decisional assemblage that lets them find an appropriate behavioral solution. A working consciousness would serve this function well. This explains why animals may have the functional equivalent of human declarative consciousness. However, like other commentators who were friendly to this equivalence, we approach carefully the stronger claims that animals' metacognitive performances imply full-blown self-awareness or phenomenal consciousness. We discuss the commentators' interesting ideas for future research, as well as their intriguing ideas about the evolution and development of metacognition and its relation to theory of mind. We also discuss residual confusions about existing research and remaining methodological issues.

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