Emotion and Motivation

1. In general, how accurate is metacognition? Examples from various metamemory studies, the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, and metacomprehension follow. Description of several factors that could influence the accuracy of metacognition follows.

2. Suppose that a person is listening to a professor’s description of the layout of several buildings in a city. The professor asks the person to draw a map of this description. Discussion of how cognitive maps and the alignment and rotation heuristics affect one’s representation of the city.

3. One decides to buy tickets at a box-office for a concert. How would one use the processes of semantic memory, schemas, and scripts in the purchase of the tickets?

People’s metacognition is not very accurate but it can be improved. Thinking about thought or cognitive processes, such as the process of decision making and/or the process of recognizing and understanding words when we read, is metacognition. In other words, metacognition is someone’s knowledge about his or her own cognitive processes and his or her control of them. Metacognition guides choices of memories strategies or methods to improve the memory. General factors, such as time of day, motivation, information type, and social circumstances, influence memory.

One kind of metacognition is metamemory. Metamemory greatly affects memory improvement. Some aspects of metamemory are: accuracy in predicting memory performance, knowledge about memory strategies and regulation of study strategies. An example of metamemory is realizing the need of a strategy to remember a historical date.

The tip of the tongue (TOT) phenomenon is one kind of metacognition (Koriat et al., 2003). It is the feeling a subject has when he or she is sure to know the target word or words being searched for, while not recalled at the very moment, yet. When the phenomenon happens, the person in question is able to provide similar sounding words, similar length words and same semantic characteristics of the words. In the Italian language, the person in question is able to also retrieve the grammatical gender of the target word. I am testimony of this information, as I speak fluent Italian. This phenomenon happens once a week to monolinguals and more frequently to bilingual people.

Besides metamemory, metacongition includes metacomprehension, which is when people think about topics or questions related to understanding, knowledge, comprehension, and awareness. In other words, metacomprehension refers to people’s thoughts about reading (not spoken) comprehension. Studies have shown how students are highly overconfident in many cases, including whether they answer questions correctly or incorrectly during tests. Students become more accurate in judging their performance as they become more experienced in reading and as they receive feedback. I personally believe, based on experience, that multiple choice question tests do not accurately test comprehension, but just the ability to spot the right keywords in the right answer.

One excellent method to improve metacomprehension is to take a pretest. Another excellent method is to read a section, wait for a few minutes and then summarize it. Metacomprehension requires a person to regulate the reading, so that the person knows how to read effectively. Good readers connect ideas they read, create correspondent visual images, and outline and summarize the readings in their own words.

Teachers can instruct young students to think out loud so they can summarize, predict outcome and describe problematic situations. Test anxiety could be correlated to comprehension, summary skills and test results. Study skills could be correlated to memory and ability to infer. Adults are more accurate than children and elders, who are over confident about their memory performance, in judging their accuracy on a memory task. As people grow, they improve their metamemory, strategy usage and better memory performance.

Different memory strategies may work for some people and not for others. Some examples of reading memory performance strategies are repeating, inventing images and stories, keywords, and attention to metamemory, having a plan and time, and motivation.

In regard to cognitive maps, mental images are stored in memory. A cognitive map is a mental image of people’s surroundings, such as a city. Mental images are the relationships among objects. Cognitive maps represent distances, shapes and relative positions. Cognitive maps represent large areas, such as a city; they are parts of spatial cognition. There are individual differences in spatial cognition skills. Metacognitions about special abilities are accurate. Cognitive maps are analog or propositional. Mental maps are easier to judge if the person acquires spatial information from a physical map that is oriented in the same direction that the person is facing in her or his mental map. Cognitive processes and maps are accurate. Errors in cognitive processes are traced to a rational strategy.

Semantic factors influence distance estimates for specific locations within a town or a city. Places geographically close also belong to the same category. The landmark effect is the tendency to provide shorter estimates when travelling to a landmark, such as in a city.

People construct cognitive mental maps in which object shapes are more regular or ordinary than they actually are in reality. A heuristic is a problem solving strategy that produces a correct solution. Based on rotation heuristic, a tilted figure is remembered as more straight than it is. People living in Israel, Italy and Japan rotate geographic structures. Instead, based on the alignment heuristic, geographical structures are remembered more lined up than they are. People’s cognitive maps are biased when northern American cities are compared with southern European cities. The rotation heuristic rotates a single figure clockwise or counterclockwise. The alignment heuristic lines up several separate figures in a straight row. Both, rotation and alignment heuristics, help people construct cognitive maps that are more orderly and schematic than they are. When people’s mental maps rely only on these heuristics, people miss important details, like in top-down cognitive processes when bottom up information is missed.

The feature comparison model says that concepts are stored as a list of necessary features. The prototype theory says that people compare new stimuli with an idealized prototype to categorize them. People stereotype to make give examples of a category and they judge prototypes faster after semantic priming. Prototypes share many attributes with other items in the same family-resemblance category. Prototype theory also says that people use basic level categories instead of subordinate level categories when identifying objects. Basic level names or terms produce the priming effect and levels of categorization activate specific parts of the brain. The exemplar approach says that people classify a new stimulus by deciding how it resembles specific learned examples. People concepts may include information about less typical examples. People may use prototypes and examples to represent concepts. The network model says concepts are interconnected in semantic memory and activation spreads to related concepts. The ACT model of declarative memory brings sentences and concepts together in a network. THE PDP or parallel distributed processing approach says that cognitive processes are based on parallel operations, which networks link many nodes and that, through the nodes, a pattern of activity represent a concept. PDP also explains cognitive phenomena as spontaneous generalization, default assignment, and graceful degradation.

A schema is a generalized knowledge about a situation, a person or an event, such as purchasing tickets for a concert, at a box office. A script is a type of schema that describes an easy, structured sequence of events associated with a familiar activity. People can recall the elements in a script more effectively if the script is identified at the outset. People often recall schemas inconsistent information as if that information is vivid. When people remember a scene, they stretch the boundaries of the objects that had minimally appeared in the scene by recollecting them as complete objects. The constructive model of memory says that schemas encourage memory abstraction, so that the overall meaning of a message is remembered. The pragmatic view of memory says people can shift their attention to remember exact words, when necessary. Schemas influence the inferences people make in memory. People can recall inferences that do not appear. Also, people often make schema-consistent inferences in explicit and implicit memory. Again, people frequently remember incorrect inferences from publicity and politics. Schemas encourage an integrated representation in memory. In addition, people may misremember material during the integration process, so that the information is consistent with their schemas, especially if recall is delayed and, especially if people are multi-tasking.

If I decided to buy tickets at a box-office for a concert, I would use the processes of semantic memory, schemas, and scripts in the purchase of the tickets, in the following ways. My past experience, which encompasses semantic memory, schemas, and scripts, would tell me to first research the buying online, in order to save time, money and energy. If I were able to complete the transaction online, I would print the receipt confirmation and save it on my iphone, as a second method, to prove to the concert event guards and bouncers. If I were not successful online, I would go purchase the tickets in person. I would research and call prior to driving to the box office, so I could know exactly what to do. Before purchasing the ticket, I would research the possible seats and research the shape of the concert area, in order to be able to obtain the best seats possible for the money value and, ultimately, being able to have the best view possible of the performance. I would read all the fine prints and instructions in details, before completing the purchasing transaction.


Koriat, A., Levy-Sadot, R., Edry, E., & de Marcas, S. (2003). What do we know about what we cannot remember? Accessing the semantic attributes of words that cannot be recalled. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29, 1095-1105.

Thank you.

Elena Pezzini, M.S., C.P.C.
You Have Got The Power, Inc.
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