The perceptual and social components of metacognition

Niccolo Pescetelli, Geraint Rees, Bahador Bahrami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


When deciding whether or not to bring an umbrella to work, your confidence will be influenced by the sky outside the window (direct evidence) as well as by, for example, whether or not people walking in the street have their own umbrella (indirect or contingent evidence). These 2 distinct aspects of decision confidence have not yet been assessed independently within the same framework. Here we study the relative contributions of stimulus-specific and social-contingent information on confidence formation. Dyads of participants made visual perceptual decisions, first individually and then together by sharing their wagers in their decisions. We independently manipulated the sensory evidence and the social consensus available to participants and found that both type of evidence contributed to wagers. Consistent with previous work, the amount people were prepared to wager covaried with the strength of sensory evidence. However, social agreements and disagreement affected wagers in opposite directions and asymmetrically. These different contributions of sensory and social evidence to wager were linearly additive. Moreover, average metacognitive sensitivity-namely the association between wagers and accuracy-between interacting dyad members positively correlated with dyadic performance and dyadic benefit above average individual performance. Our results provide a general framework that accounts for how both social context and direct sensory evidence contribute to decision confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-965
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


  • Collective decision making
  • Metacognition
  • Social interaction


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