Meta-cognition is the ability to judge the chances of success or failure in an activity before carrying out the activity. It enables one to perceive his or her mental state and mental processes through monitoring and regulation of other low-level cognitive process by the means of consciousness and self-awareness. Animals also exhibit meta-cognition through processes and tasks that are inferior to those of human beings. Animals show meta-cognition when they can avoid the task or when the response is uncertain, and the discrimination activity or task can be avoided. The first task through which animals demonstrate meta-cognition is categorization. This depends on stimuli, and the critical value determines the response that the animal will adopt (Jozefoweiz, Staddon, & Ceruti, 2009).
The development of personality is a complex subject because of the different personalities in people and the availability of different theories for explaining it. However, some of the main aspects of personality development include consciousness and unconsciousness, stages of development, temperament, learning, emotions, and motivation. All these aspects are related to the development of meta-cognition. Another important aspect of personality is neurosis, which is the coping mechanisms developed by people for difficult situations in their life such as rejection, accidents, or divorce.
A person’s judgment not only reflects the thought content but also the experience of processing the thoughts. One fundamental meta-cognitive cue in relation to information processing is processing fluency. This relates to the ease of processing information and plays a significant role in judgment. In a study on assertiveness, some of the participants were told to give 6 samples of assertive behavior while the other participants were asked to give 12 examples. Participants with few examples found the task easy while those with many examples found the process difficult. In this case, the fluency of information processing played a more significant role in shaping the participant’s judgment than the cognitive content (Jost, Kruglanski, & Nelson, 1998). The participants also rated their assertiveness using the ease of giving examples as opposed to the number of examples they generated in their mind (Alter & Oppenhimer, 2009). There are different forms of fluency such as ease of retrieval, visual ease, semantic priming, and linguistic fluency. The instantiations of fluency exert a uniform effect on judgment in domains such as truth judgment, liking, and confidence.
Judgment of truth in the absence of objective information is based on other cues that imply truth or fallacy of a situation. Fluency is associated with truth while the lack of fluency implies untruth. This is because fluency implies frequency of the given situation, which, in turn, implies social consensus. Statements that are easy to read may be deemed true while those difficult to see are deemed untrue. Fluency also influences the liking of people of an event such as preferring familiar situations to other situations that are similar but unknown. In relation to confidence, fluency of performance generates a higher level of confidence in the individual than when the activity is not fluent. Therefore, people are more confident in answering trivial questions when they have been primed with components of the question. The simplicity of reading instructions or questions also influences the confidence of people in responding to the questions.
Another important aspect of personality development is self-assessment. The assessment of a person’s capabilities is based on their skills and awareness. People that are unskilled in certain domains lack the cognitive ability to realize that they make erroneous judgments in relation to their capabilities. People tend to place themselves high in performance of some tasks although test scores place them on lower levels (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). It is clear that the skills required for competence in a domain are also necessary for evaluating competence in the domain. In light of this, incompetent people lack meta-cognition, meta-comprehension, and self-monitoring skills to assess their capabilities.
This phenomenon highlights the reason why people are inaccurate in appraising their skills. This can be effective in explaining the above average effect, which explains how people that are average believe that they are above average thus defying the logic of descriptive statistics. This explains why people in school or at work view themselves as being better than their peers are. Failure to recognize poor performance leaves one to assume that the performance is exemplary. This results in overestimation of the skills and abilities of the incompetent individual. Research shows that incompetent individuals do not have the meta-cognitive skills required for accurate self-assessment. Research on some forms of expertise shows that learners in fields such as physics have poorer meta-cognitive skills than experts. Novices in physics are inaccurate compared to experts in judging the difficulty of physics problems. Other studies on social competence show that individuals lacking social skills are unaware of their social incompetence. This implies that individuals can only gain insight into their deficiency by gaining competence and thus the required cognitive skills.
Another important aspect of meta-cognition is its influence on learning. One of the main aims of education is to teach critical thinking to students. Critical thinking becomes possible when students utilize their critical thinking skills in order to increase the probability of the desired outcome. A successful strategy for enhancing critical thinking is incorporating ideas about how people organize and how they process knowledge. Students require certain meta-cognitive skills such as self-monitoring, checking process, and ensuring accuracy in order to engage in critical thinking. Studies conducted by researchers such as Kogut indicated that significant gains exist in post-test critical thinking. Meta-cognition is encouraged in class when the teacher provides instructions and other meta-cognitive strategies to students. The strategies that have the capability to improve meta-cognition in students include key words, topics, and prompts. This shows the significance of meta-cognition in the development of critical thinking (Magno, 2010). Students who are exposed to meta-cognitive exercises develop critical thinking and thus have a critical perspective towards issues and events.
According to Gollwitzer and Schaal (1998), there are different levels in the thought about action. The levels involved are strategy, operative planning, and tactics. The tactics to be used depends on the operative goal, which depends on the strategy being pursued. Action control is a crucial aspect of meta-cognition, which consists of goal intentions located in the strategy level and the implementation intentions, which are on the planning level. Automatic processes are influenced by meta-cognition and influence everyday actions and conditions (Gollwitzer & Schaal, 1998).
From these conditions, it is clear that meta-cognition is a core issue in the development of strategies for coping with events. It relates to critical thinking, which influences the individual’s ability to analyze events and conditions. Planning and implementation of strategies occurs at different levels of meta-cognition and requires different thought processes. The development of cognition is influenced by different factors, and the level of cognitive development influences the perception of the individual about his other abilities.