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Metacognition: Faced with a test, rats can check their knowledge first

oise happened to be of more intermediate length (for example, 4.4 seconds). But prior to the time-discrimination test, rats were given a choice of whether to take the test at all by poking their nose into one of two apertures. If the rat opted out of the test, it received a small food reward; if it opted in, it was subsequently presented with two levers, one of which it knew from past training represented "short duration" and one "long duration." Selection of the correct lever resulted in a large reward, whereas an incorrect choice yielded nothing.

Two lines of evidence from the experiments indicated that rats can judge whether they have enough information to pass the text. First, the researchers observed that the more difficult the time-discrimination task was, the more frequently rats opted to decline the test. And second, accuracy in the test declined as the difficulty of the time-discrimination task increased, and this decline in accuracy was greater when rats were not given the choice of declining the test—that is, when they were "forced" to take it. The findings indicate that rats were able to assess, on a trial-by-trial basis, whether they were likely to pass the test if they took it.

The findings broaden our understanding of the prevalence of certain cognitive skills in the animal kingdom, and, as the authors point out in their paper, may provide opportunities to study the neuroanatomical and molecular mechanisms that underlie metacognition.


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Source:Cell Press


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