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ERC

MetCogCon Report Summary

Project ID: 681422
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MetCogCon (Metacognition of Concepts)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The Project investigates the thoughts and feelings that accompany the use of concepts. Concepts lie at the heart of the extraordinary power of the human mind. They are the building blocks of thought, the tools with which we think. Like physical tools, they can be more or less dependable, more or less fit for purpose: e.g. for most people AMPHIBIAN feels like a better concept than SHRUB. We have an intuitive sense of how dependable a concept is, which is crucial when we decide whether to rely on the concept. It can underpin our decision to reject some concepts (e.g. INNATE) and embrace others in our theorising (e.g. VALIDITY). Similarly in everyday thinking: when concepts are selected for reasoning and induction, and when different cognitive processes compete for control of action, the metacognition that accompanies the concepts involved is likely to have a powerful effect. However, metacognition directed at concepts is still poorly understood. We lack even a clear theoretical framework to underpin research in this area.

Developing an account of people’s metacognitive understanding of their concepts is likely to tell us important things about concepts and about cognitive control; and to solve some thorny philosophical problems. The Project takes up that opportunity. It is the first systematic investigation of the scope of metacognition as it applies to concepts. We are combining the analytic methods developed by philosophers of mind and cognitive science with psychological model-building and experimental investigation.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In this period the Project has:-

(1) Examined the theoretical foundations for the idea of metacognition applied to concepts, including the conceptual/non-conceptual distinction and how concepts as representations at the personal level differ in relevant ways from subpersonal representations.

(2) Commenced experimental studies of the phenomenon: the dimensions that underlie people’s feelings of concept-dependability and concept-understanding; and the way those feelings are relied on in making inductive inferences.

(3) Commenced a theoretical investigation of the place of concept-metacognition in a theory of concepts and the consequences thereof.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The Project will go on to examine:-

(1) The role of concept-metacognition in cognitive control processes; in the phenomenon of knowing what one is thinking; and as a potential epistemic index of coherence.

(2) How cues and heuristics are likely to inform a thinker’s metacognitive assessments of their concepts, including socially-communicated cues; and the role of metacognitive communication in the social process of collectively constructing, selecting and rejecting concepts; also the extent to which these processes are distinctively human.
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