Prospective and Retrospective Metacognitive Abilities in Rhesus Monkeys


Metacognition refers to a knowledge of one’s own cognitive abilities and one’s aptitude to alter these abilities if necessary. Previous research from our lab shows that monkeys exhibit metacognitive abilities by accurately judging their own performance on perceptual and serial working memory tasks. The present study includes two phases during which a monkey makes retrospective and prospective judgments of confidence. In the retrospective phase of this experiment, the subject completes a recall task, and then judges his performance on the test phase by choosing from high and low-risk confidence choices. In the prospective task, the monkey makes his confidence judgment before the test, instead judging how well he learned during the study phase. An analysis of results indicates that monkeys can immediately transfer the ability to make metacognitive judgments from the serial working memory tasks in previous experiments to retrospective and prospective recall tasks in the present study. These findings underline the similarity between the non-human primate and human abilities to make confidence judgments. Further, they are the first evidence to date of a non-human primate making a prospective judgment of future performance, suggesting that the ability to use a metacognitive state to control one’s actions is not uniquely human.