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Confidence guides spontaneous cognitive offloading

Boldt, A; Gilbert, SJ; (2019) Confidence guides spontaneous cognitive offloading. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications , 4 (1) , Article 45. 10.1186/s41235-019-0195-y. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Cognitive offloading is the use of physical action to reduce the cognitive demands of a task. Everyday memory relies heavily on this practice; for example, when we write down to-be-remembered information or use diaries, alerts, and reminders to trigger delayed intentions. A key goal of recent research has been to investigate the processes that trigger cognitive offloading. This research has demonstrated that individuals decide whether or not to offload based on a potentially erroneous metacognitive evaluation of their mental abilities. Therefore, improving the accuracy of metacognitive evaluations may help to optimise offloading behaviour. However, previous studies typically measure participants' use of an explicitly instructed offloading strategy, in contrast to everyday life where offloading strategies must often be generated spontaneously. RESULTS: We administered a computer-based task requiring participants to remember delayed intentions. One group of participants was explicitly instructed on a method for setting external reminders; another was not. The latter group spontaneously set reminders but did so less often than the instructed group. Offloading improved performance in both groups. Crucially, metacognition (confidence in unaided memory ability) guided both instructed and spontaneous offloading: Participants in both groups set more reminders when they were less confident (regardless of actual memory ability). CONCLUSIONS: These results show that the link between metacognition and cognitive offloading holds even when offloading strategies need to be spontaneously generated. Thus, metacognitive interventions are potentially able to alter offloading behaviour, without requiring offloading strategies to be explicitly instructed.

Type: Article
Title: Confidence guides spontaneous cognitive offloading
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s41235-019-0195-y
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-019-0195-y
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Cognitive offloading, Confidence, Delayed intentions, Metacognition, Metamemory, Prospective memory, Reminders
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 > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087704
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