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Optimal use of reminders: Metacognition, effort, and cognitive offloading

Gilbert, SJ; Bird, A; Carpenter, JM; Fleming, SM; Sachdeva, C; Tsai, P-C; (2019) Optimal use of reminders: Metacognition, effort, and cognitive offloading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 10.1037/xge0000652. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Individuals frequently choose between accomplishing goals using unaided cognitive abilities or offloading cognitive demands onto external tools and resources. For example, in order to remember an upcoming appointment one might rely on unaided memory or create a reminder by setting a smartphone alert. Setting a reminder incurs both a cost (the time/effort to set it up) and a benefit (increased likelihood of remembering). Here we investigate whether individuals weigh such costs/benefits optimally or show systematic biases. In 3 experiments, participants performed a memory task where they could choose between (a) earning a maximum reward for each remembered item, using unaided memory; or (b) earning a lesser amount per item, using external reminders to increase the number remembered. Participants were significantly biased toward using external reminders, even when they had a financial incentive to choose optimally. Individual differences in this bias were stable over time, and predicted by participants' erroneous metacognitive underconfidence in their memory abilities. Bias was eliminated, however, when participants received metacognitive advice about which strategy was likely to maximize performance. Furthermore, we found that metacognitive interventions (manipulation of feedback valence and practice-trial difficulty) yielded shifts in participants' reminder bias that were mediated by shifts in confidence. However, the bias could not be fully attributed to metacognitive error. We conclude that individuals have stable biases toward using external versus internal cognitive resources, which result at least in part from inaccurate metacognitive evaluations. Finding interventions to mitigate these biases can improve individuals' adaptive use of cognitive tools.

Type: Article
Title: Optimal use of reminders: Metacognition, effort, and cognitive offloading
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/xge0000652
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000652
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080846
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