I think, therefore I am. It is really impossible to imagine what it would be like to be alive but unaware of your own thoughts, so metacognition is something that we take for granted. However, as you will see, there is an incredible advantage to developing such an advanced cognitive capacity:
Read: Metacognition: Thinking About Thinking (http://goo.gl/azg5VY)
One ever important distinction is between the controlled cognitive processes, the thought we are aware of and that takes some mental effort, and the automatic cognitive processes, the thought that happens subconsciously and without any real effort. As we will see throughout this course, so much of what goes on occurs on an automatic and subconscious level. First, read:
Read: Controlled And Automatic Processing (http://goo.gl/sqGIk0)
An important point to stress is that our brain has limited resources, so if we are engaged in a difficult controlled process (e.g., trying to memorize a long series of numbers), we will not have the power to do other intensive mental tasks (e.g., have an intelligent conversation). That is, one task interferes with another. However, we would still be able to carry out several automatic processes (e.g., recognizing the face of someone you know) because they do not really require any mental resources. The extent to which our mind is engaged in controlled processing is known as cognitive load… the more load we have at the moment, the less we are capable of thinking about.
A great example of how our controlled and automatic processes operate at the same time is known as the Stroop Effect, named after J.R. Stroop (1897-1973). Here is an interactive demonstration of the effect. After clicking on the link below you will see a Start button, and below that four buttons (red, green, blue, yellow). Your task is simple. You will see a word appear on the screen and all you have to do is click the button to indicate what color the ink is. For this to work, try and respond as fast as you possible can and record the average times for “congruent” and “incongruent” trials:
Visit: Confusing Colors (http://goo.gl/YPlVS)
When you complete the demonstration you will see a results screen - be sure to save a copy of that screen for later reference. As you can see in this case, an automatic process interferes with a controlled process.