Article

Children Devise and Selectively Use Tools to Offload Cognition

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

From maps sketched in sand to supercomputing software, humans ubiquitously enhance cognitive performance by creating and using artifacts that bear mental load [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. This extension of information processing into the environment has taken center stage in debates about the nature of cognition in humans and other animals [6, 7, 8, 9]. How does the human mind acquire such strategies? In two experiments, we investigated the developmental origins of cognitive offloading in 150 children aged between 4 and 11 years. We created a memory task in which children were required to recall the location of hidden targets. In one experiment, participants were provided with a pre-specified cognitive offloading opportunity: an option to mark the target locations with tokens during the hiding period. Even 4-year-old children quickly adopted this external strategy and, in line with a metacognitive account, children across ages offloaded more often when the task was more difficult. In a second experiment, we provided children with the means to devise their own cognitive offloading strategy. Very few younger children spontaneously devised a solution, but by ages 10 and 11, nearly all did so. In a follow-up test phase, a simple prompt greatly increased the rate at which the younger children devised an offloading strategy. These findings suggest that sensitivity to the difficulties of thinking arises early in development and improves throughout the early school years, with children learning to modify the world around them to compensate for their cognitive limits.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... In addition, the ability to offload mental demand to manual operation increased with the children's age. Bulley et al. (2020) obtained results similar to the aforementioned ones. When children aged 4-11 years were asked to recall the location of hidden targets and given the option to mark their location, they relied on external aids (offloading) more often when the number of targets increased. ...
... When children aged 4-11 years were asked to recall the location of hidden targets and given the option to mark their location, they relied on external aids (offloading) more often when the number of targets increased. When children were provided with a means to devise their own cognitive offloading strategies, children aged 10 and 11 years devised solutions on their own; however, few younger children were able to do so (Bulley et al., 2020). In addition, children aged 9-11 years old could mark targets more often as the number of targets increased, whereas children aged younger than nine years demonstrated no difference in offloading behavior in terms of the number of targets (Redshaw et al., 2018). ...
... Children in the middle and upper elementary grades can allocate learning time on the basis of the difficulty of word pairs (Koriat et al., 2009). The perception of difficulty emerges early in childhood, and the ability to use external tools to compensate for limited cognition continues to develop throughout elementary school (Bulley et al., 2020), which is consistent with the results of Study 1. Children older than nine years of age use cognitive offloading more frequently than children at age below 9 in a high-cognitive-demand task condition (Redshaw et al., 2018). The aforementioned findings suggest that children in middle childhood can apply item difficulty cues for offloading. ...
Article
Full-text available
The storage of information in external tools (e.g., notebook, cellphone) has become increasingly common. Some researchers have defined this behavior as cognitive offloading, which is a type of learning strategy. Studies have indicated that as age increases, children become increasingly capable of calibrating their learning strategies according to the difficulty of learning items. The value of items is also essential in people’s daily learning. However, how children apply both cues of item difficulty and item value for cognitive offloading to regulate their learning process remains unclear. In three studies, we investigated children’s offloading of learning items by manipulating these items’ difficulty and value (Study 1), value alone with difficulty being unvaried (Study 2), and difficulty and value with an emphasis on value (Study 3). The results indicate that children aged 11 years used difficulty cues alone for cognitive offloading when both difficulty and value cues were presented. However, when difficulty was controlled and value was emphasized, the 11-year-old children adopted cognitive offloading strategies based on value cues. The three studies revealed the conditions under which children in middle childhood apply cues of the item value, which are goal-driven cues, for cognitive offloading and provided methods for encouraging children to simultaneously apply item difficulty cues, which are data-driven cues, and item value cues.
... Studies suggest that even young children offload cognitive processes instead of completely relying on their internal resources (e.g., Armitage et al., 2020;Bulley et al., 2020). Thus, already in crucial learning phases during childhood tools are used to distribute cognitive demands onto internal and external resources. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the present article, we explore prospects for using artificial intelligence (AI) to distribute cognition via cognitive offloading (i.e., to delegate thinking tasks to AI-technologies). Modern technologies for cognitive support are rapidly developing and increasingly popular. Today, many individuals heavily rely on their smartphones or other technical gadgets to support their daily life but also their learning and work. For instance, smartphones are used to track and analyze changes in the environment, and to store and continually update relevant information. Thus, individuals can offload (i.e., externalize) information to their smartphones and refresh their knowledge by accessing it. This implies that using modern technologies such as AI empowers users via offloading and enables them to function as always-updated knowledge professionals, so that they can deploy their insights strategically instead of relying on outdated and memorized facts. This AI-supported offloading of cognitive processes also saves individuals' internal cognitive resources by distributing the task demands into their environment. In this article, we provide (1) an overview of empirical findings on cognitive offloading and (2) an outlook on how individuals' offloading behavior might change in an AI-enhanced future. More specifically, we first discuss determinants of offloading such as the design of technical tools and links to metacognition. Furthermore, we discuss benefits and risks of cognitive offloading. While offloading improves immediate task performance, it might also be a threat for users' cognitive abilities. Following this, we provide a perspective on whether individuals will make heavier use of AI-technologies for offloading in the future and how this might affect their cognition. On one hand, individuals might heavily rely on easily accessible AI-technologies which in return might diminish their internal cognition/learning. On the other hand, individuals might aim at enhancing their cognition so that they can keep up with AI-technologies and will not be replaced by them. Finally, we present own data and findings from the literature on the assumption that individuals' personality is a predictor of trust in AI. Trust in modern AI-technologies might be a strong determinant for wider appropriation and dependence on these technologies to distribute cognition and should thus be considered in an AI-enhanced future.
... Subsequent work has demonstrated strategic reminder setting in younger children. Bulley et al. (2020) investigated a short-term retrospective memory task, finding that once the offloading strategy was instructed, even children as young as 4 years selectively set reminders at a higher memory load. However, only older children set reminders when they had to devise the strategy themselves. ...
Article
Full-text available
How do we remember delayed intentions? Three decades of research into prospective memory have provided insight into the cognitive and neural mechanisms involved in this form of memory. However, we depend on more than just our brains to remember intentions. We also use external props and tools such as calendars and diaries, strategically placed objects, and technologies such as smartphone alerts. This is known as ‘intention offloading’. Despite the progress in our understanding of brain-based prospective memory, we know much less about the role of intention offloading in individuals’ ability to fulfil delayed intentions. Here, we review recent research into intention offloading, with a particular focus on how individuals decide between storing intentions in internal memory versus external reminders. We also review studies investigating how intention offloading changes across the lifespan and how it relates to underlying brain mechanisms. We conclude that intention offloading is highly effective, experimentally tractable, and guided by metacognitive processes. Individuals have systematic biases in their offloading strategies that are stable over time. Evidence also suggests that individual differences and developmental changes in offloading strategies are driven at least in part by metacognitive processes. Therefore, metacognitive interventions could play an important role in promoting individuals’ adaptive use of cognitive tools.
... Recent research on the psychological mechanisms of cognitive offloading has revealed that the flexible use of external memory aids depends on reliable metacognitive insight [14,[225][226][227][228]. To strategically adopt a clock-watching strategy requires a degree of awareness about the inaccuracy of one's internal time perception, and a level of awareness that clock monitoring will be required to successfully fulfil one's intention. ...
Article
Full-text available
The capacity for subjective time in humans encompasses the perception of time’s unfolding from moment to moment, as well as the ability to traverse larger temporal expanses of past- and future-oriented thought via mental time travel. Disruption in time perception can result in maladaptive outcomes—from the innocuous lapse in timing that leads to a burnt piece of toast, to the grievous miscalculation that produces a traffic accident—while disruption to mental time travel can impact core functions from planning appointments to making long-term decisions. Mounting evidence suggests that disturbances to both time perception and mental time travel are prominent in dementia syndromes. Given that such disruptions can have severe consequences for independent functioning in everyday life, here we aim to provide a comprehensive exposition of subjective timing dysfunction in dementia, with a view to informing the management of such disturbances. We consider the neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning changes to both time perception and mental time travel across different dementia disorders. Moreover, we explicate the functional implications of altered subjective timing by reference to two key and representative adaptive capacities: prospective memory and intertemporal decision-making. Overall, our review sheds light on the transdiagnostic implications of subjective timing disturbances in dementia and highlights the high variability in performance across clinical syndromes and functional domains.
... In return, it might be the absence of practice and routine in using internal resources which causes the detrimental effects of cognitive offloading (Risko & Gilbert, 2016;Salomon, 1990). Recent findings revealed that already children selectively use tools to overcome cognitive limitations (Armitage et al., 2020;Bulley et al., 2020). Therefore, effects with and of technology might already constitute an important trade-off to consider at young ages. ...
Article
Full-text available
Modern technical tools such as tablets allow for the temporal externalization of working memory processes (i.e. cognitive offloading). Although such externalizations support immediate performance on different tasks, little is known about potential long-term consequences of offloading behavior. In the current set of experiments, we studied the relationship between cognitive offloading and subsequent memory for the offloaded information as well as the interplay of this relationship with the goal to acquire new memory representations. Our participants solved the Pattern Copy Task, in which we manipulated the costs of cognitive offloading and the awareness of a subsequent memory test. In Experiment 1 (N = 172), we showed that increasing the costs for offloading induces reduced offloading behavior. This reduction in offloading came along with lower immediate task performance but more accurate memory in an unexpected test. In Experiment 2 (N = 172), we confirmed these findings and observed that offloading behavior remained detrimental for subsequent memory performance when participants were aware of the upcoming memory test. Interestingly, Experiment 3 (N = 172) showed that cognitive offloading is not detrimental for long-term memory formation under all circumstances. Those participants who were forced to offload maximally but were aware of the memory test could almost completely counteract the negative impact of offloading on memory. Our experiments highlight the importance of the explicit goal to acquire new memory representations when relying on technical tools as offloading did have detrimental effects on memory without such a goal.
Article
Previous work demonstrates that individuals often recall less information if, at study, there is expectation that an external memory store will be available at test. One explanation for this effect is that when individuals can expect access to an external memory store, they forgo intentional, controlled efforts at encoding. The present work offers a novel test of this account by examining study effort, indexed by study time and self-reported strategy use, as a function of instructed external store availability. In two preregistered experiments, participants studied lists of to-be-remembered items for a free recall test and were either instructed that they could use their study list to support them at test or that they could not. Critically, participants controlled their own study time, and no participant had their study list at test, regardless of instruction. Consistent with the effort at encoding account, external store availability influenced both study time and strategy use, and there was evidence that these effects mediated the influence of external store availability on recall performance. Interestingly, much of the memory cost remained when controlling for study effort, thus, suggesting that the cost is potentially multiply determined.
Article
Metacognition plays an essential role in adults’ cognitive offloading decisions. Despite possessing basic metacognitive capacities, however, preschool-aged children often fail to offload effectively. Here, we introduced 3- to 5-year-olds to a novel search task in which they were unlikely to perform optimally across trials without setting external reminders about the location of a target. Children watched as an experimenter first hid a target in one of three identical opaque containers. The containers were then shuffled out of view before children had to guess where the target was hidden. In the test phase, children could perform perfectly by simply placing a marker in a transparent jar attached to the target container prior to shuffling, and then later selecting the marked container. Children of all ages used this strategy above chance levels if they had seen it demonstrated to them, but only the 4- and 5-year-olds independently devised this external strategy to improve their future performance. These results suggest that, when necessary for optimal performance, even 4- and 5-year-olds can use metacognitive knowledge about their own future uncertainty to deploy effective external solutions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
Article
Ninety‐seven children aged 4–11 (49 males, 48 females, mostly White) were given the opportunity to improve their problem‐solving performance by devising and implementing a novel cognitive offloading strategy. Across two phases, they searched for hidden rewards using maps that were either aligned or misaligned with the search space. In the second phase, maps were presented on rotatable turntables, thus allowing children to manually align all maps and alleviate mental rotation demand. From age six onwards, children showed strong evidence of both mentally rotating misaligned maps in phase 1 and manually aligning them in phase 2. Older children used this form of cognitive offloading more frequently, which substantially improved performance and eliminated the individual differences observed in phase 1.
Article
Human cumulative culture has been suggested to depend on human-unique cognitive mechanisms, explaining its apparent absence in other species. We show that the potential for exhibiting cumulative culture depends on the cognitive abilities of the agents and the demands associated with using information generated by others’ activity. 154 children aged 3–6 years played a searching game (“Find the Treasure”), taking their turn after a puppet demonstrator. The puppet’s attempt revealed information about the contents of the locations searched, which could be exploited to target rewarded locations, and avoid unrewarded ones. Two conditions were presented, intended to capture realistic variation in the transience of the cues generated by another individual’s activity. In one condition, the puppet’s demonstration provided transient information – boxes were opened, seen to be rewarded or not, and then closed. In the other condition the puppet’s chosen boxes remained partially open, providing an enduring visible cue as to whether that location was rewarded. Children undertook three trials of varying demonstration success, and we used patterns of performance to infer the potential for improvement over multiple generations of transmission. In the Enduring Cues condition, children’s performance demonstrated the potential for cumulative culture. In contrast, in the Transient Information condition, only older children showed improved performances following higher success demonstrations and overall performance was not compatible with the possibility of improvements over generations of social transmission. We conclude that under certain conditions cumulative culture could occur in many species, but in a broader range of contexts in humans.
Article
Mobile containers are a keystone human innovation. Ethnographic data indicate that all human groups use containers such as bags, quivers and baskets, ensuring that individuals have important resources at the ready and are prepared for opportunities and threats before they materialize. Although there is speculation surrounding the invention of carrying devices, the current hard archaeological evidence only reaches back some 100,000 years. The dearth of ancient evidence may reflect not only taphonomic processes , but also a lack of attention to these devices. To begin investigating the origins of carrying devices we focus on exploring the basic cognitive processes involved in mobile container use and report an initial study on young children's understanding and deployment of such devices. We gave 3-to 7-year-old children (N = 106) the opportunity to spontaneously identify and use a basket to increase their own carrying capacity and thereby obtain more resources in the future. Performance improved linearly with age, as did the likelihood of recognizing that adults use mobile carrying devices to increase carrying capacity. We argue that the evolutionary and developmental origins of mobile containers reflect foundational cognitive processes that enable humans to think about their own limits and compensate for them.
Article
Semantic knowledge accumulates through explicit means and productive processes (e.g., analogy). These means work in concert when information explicitly acquired in separate episodes is integrated, and the integrated representation is used to self-derive new knowledge. We tested whether (a) self-derivation through memory integration extends beyond general information to science content, (b) self-derived information is retained, and (c) details of explicit learning episodes are retained. Testing was in second-grade classrooms (children 7–9 years). Children self-derived new knowledge; performance did not differ for general knowledge (Experiment 1) and science curriculum facts (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, children retained self-derived knowledge over one week. In Experiment 2, children remembered details of the learning episodes that gave rise to self-derived knowledge; performance suggests that memory integration is dependent on explicit prompts. The findings support nomination of self-derivation through memory integration as a model for accumulation of semantic knowledge and inform the processes involved.
Article
Full-text available
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.
Article
Full-text available
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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
Chapter
Full-text available
One of the fundamental roles of human imagination is to enable the representation of possible future events. Here, we survey some of the most critical abilities that this foresight supports: anticipating future emotions, setting and pursuing goals, preparing for threats, deliberately acquiring skills and knowledge, and intentionally shaping the future environment. Furthermore, we outline how metacognition bolsters human capacities even further by enabling people to reflect on and compensate for the natural limits of their foresight. For example, humans make contingency plans because they appreciate that their initial predictions may turn out to be wrong. We suggest that the processes involved in monitoring, controlling, and ultimately augmenting future-oriented imagination represent an important and understudied parallel of "metamemory" that should be called "metaforesight".
Article
Full-text available
Humans are nature’s most intelligent and prolific users of external props and aids (such as written texts, slide-rules and software packages). Here we introduce a method for investigating how people make active use of their task environment during problem-solving and apply this approach to the non-verbal Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices test for fluid intelligence. We designed a click-and-drag version of the Raven test in which participants could create different external spatial configurations while solving the puzzles. In our first study, we observed that the click-and-drag test was better than the conventional static test at predicting academic achievement of university students. This pattern of results was partially replicated in a novel sample. Importantly, environment-altering actions were clustered in between periods of apparent inactivity, suggesting that problem-solvers were delicately balancing the execution of internal and external cognitive operations. We observed a systematic relationship between this critical phasic temporal signature and improved test performance. Our approach is widely applicable and offers an opportunity to quantitatively assess a powerful, although understudied, feature of human intelligence: our ability to use external objects, props and aids to solve complex problems.
Article
Full-text available
Prior research suggests that human children lack an aptitude for tool innovation. However, children’s tool making must be explored across a broader range of tasks and across diverse cultural contexts before we can conclude that they are genuinely poor tool innovators. To this end, we investigated children’s ability to independently construct 3 new tools using distinct actions: adding, subtracting, and reshaping. We tested 422 children across a broad age range from 5 geographic locations across South Africa ( N = 126), Vanuatu ( N = 190), and Australia ( N = 106), which varied in their levels of exposure to Westernized culture. Children were shown a horizontal, transparent tube that had a sticker in its middle. Children were sequentially given each incomplete tool, which when accurately constructed could be used to push the sticker out of the tube. As predicted, older children were better at performing the innovation tasks than younger children across all cultures and innovation actions. We also found evidence for cultural variation: While all non-Western groups performed similarly, the Western group of children innovated at higher rates. However, children who did not innovate often adopted alternate methods when using the tools that also led to success. This suggests that children’s innovation levels are influenced by the cultural environment, and highlights the flexibility inherent in human children’s tool use.
Article
Full-text available
The current study explored under what conditions young children would set reminders to aid their memory for delayed intentions. A computerized task requiring participants to carry out delayed intentions under varying levels of cognitive load was presented to 63 children (aged between 6.9 and 13.0 years old). Children of all ages demonstrated metacognitive predictions of their performance that were congruent with task difficulty. Only older children, however, set more reminders when they expected their future memory performance to be poorer. These results suggest that most primary school-aged children possess metacognitive knowledge about their prospective memory limits, but that only older children may be able to exercise the metacognitive control required to translate this knowledge into strategic reminder setting.
Article
Full-text available
There is a tension between the conception of cognition as a central nervous system (CNS) process and a view of cognition as extending towards the body or the contiguous environment. The centralised conception requires large or complex nervous systems to cope with complex environments. Conversely, the extended conception involves the outsourcing of information processing to the body or environment, thus making fewer demands on the processing power of the CNS. The evolution of extended cognition should be particularly favoured among small, generalist predators such as spiders, and here, we review the literature to evaluate the fit of empirical data with these contrasting models of cognition. Spiders do not seem to be cognitively limited, displaying a large diversity of learning processes, from habituation to contextual learning, including a sense of numerosity. To tease apart the central from the extended cognition, we apply the mutual manipulability criterion, testing the existence of reciprocal causal links between the putative elements of the system. We conclude that the web threads and configurations are integral parts of the cognitive systems. The extension of cognition to the web helps to explain some puzzling features of spider behaviour and seems to promote evolvability within the group, enhancing innovation through cognitive connectivity to variable habitat features. Graded changes in relative brain size could also be explained by outsourcing information processing to environmental features. More generally, niche-constructed structures emerge as prime candidates for extending animal cognition, generating the selective pressures that help to shape the evolving cognitive system.
Chapter
Full-text available
The previous two decades have seen much theoretical and empirical research into the future thinking capacities of non-human animals. Here we critically review the evidence across six domains: (1) navigation and route planning, (2) intertemporal choice and delayed gratification, (3) preparing for future threats, (4) acquiring and constructing tools to solve future problems, (5) acquiring, saving and exchanging tokens for future rewards, and (6) acting with future desires in mind. In each domain we show that animals are capable of considerably more sophisticated future-oriented behavior than was once thought possible. Explanations for these behaviors remain contentious, yet in some cases it may be most parsimonious to attribute animals with mental representations that go beyond the here-and-now. Nevertheless, we also make the case that animals may not be able to represent future representations as future representations – an overarching capacity that allows humans to reflect on their own natural future thinking limits and act to compensate for these limits. Throughout our analysis we make specific suggestions for how future research can continue to make progress on this and other important questions in the field.
Article
Full-text available
In the current set of experiments our goal was to test the hypothesis that individuals avoid courses of action based on a kind of metacognitive evaluation of demand in a Demand Selection Task (DST).Individuals in Experiment 1 completed a DST utilizing visual stimuli known to yield a dissociation between performance and perceived demand. Patterns of demand avoidance followed that of perceived demand. Experiment 2 provided a replication of the aforementioned results, in addition to demonstrating a second dissociation between a peripheral physiological measure of demand (i.e., blink rates) and demand avoidance. Experiment 3 directly tested the assumption that individuals make use of a general metacognitive evaluation of task demand during selections. A DST was utilized in a forced-choice paradigm that required individuals to either select the most effortful, time demanding, or least accurate of 2 choices. Patterns of selections were similar across all rating dimensions, lending credit to this notion.Findings are discussed within a metacognitive framework of demand avoidance and contrasted to current theories Metacognitive Evaluation in the Avoidance of Demand. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299461174_Metacognitive_Evaluation_in_the_Avoidance_of_Demand [accessed Mar 29, 2016].
Article
Full-text available
Individuals frequently make use of the body and environment when engaged in a cognitive task. For example, individuals will often spontaneously physically rotate when faced with rotated objects, such as an array of words, to putatively offload the performance costs associated with stimulus rotation. We looked to further examine this idea by independently manipulating the costs associated with both word rotation and array frame rotation. Surprisingly, we found that individuals' patterns of spontaneous physical rotations did not follow patterns of performance costs or benefits associated with being physically rotated, findings difficult to reconcile with existing theories of strategy selection involving external resources. Individuals' subjective ratings of perceived benefits, rather, provided an excellent match to the patterns of physical rotations, suggesting that the critical variable when deciding on-the-fly whether to incorporate an external resource is the participant's metacognitive beliefs regarding expected performance or the effort required for each approach (i.e., internal vs. internal + external). Implications for metacognition's future in theories of cognitive offloading are discussed. © 2015 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Article
Full-text available
Twenty children at each of grades K, 1, 3, and 5 were interviewed in order to sample their knowledge concerning various memory or memory-related phenomena (metamemory). In the present study, metamemory referred primarily to the child's verbalizable knowledge of how certain classes of variables act and interact with one another to affect the quality of an individual's performance on a retrieval problem. Examples of such variables include the relations among the items to be learned, how much study time is allotted, and how exactly they must be reproduced on the recall test. The results of this exploratory study tentatively suggest that children of grades K and 1 can often articulate the intuition that decay from shortterm memory (STM) can be very rapid; there are apt to be savings in the relearning of previously learned but subsequently forgotten information; retrieval performance is affected by amount of prior study time, by properties of individual items (e. g., familiarity), and especially by the number of items to be retrieved. Younger as well as older subjects also showed a striking tendency to think of external mnemonic resources, such as written records and other people, when proposing solutions to various preparation-for-retrieval and retrieval problems. Children of grades 3 and (especially) 5 appear considerably more planful and self-aware in their approach to both kinds of problems and also command a wider variety of solution procedures. Specific acquisitions include a more differentiated concept of self and others as mnemonic organisms and a better understanding of how relations among items (as contrasted with their individual properties) can variously facilitate or interfere with retrieval.
Article
Full-text available
Over the last decade, the metacognitive abilities of nonhuman primates and the developmental emergence of metacognition in children have become topics of increasing research interest. In the current study, the performance of three adult chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes; Experiment 1) and forty-four 3.5- and 5.5-year-old human children (Experiment 2) was assessed on a behavioral search paradigm designed to assess metacognition. Subjects either directly observed the baiting of a large reward into one cup among an array of four, or had the baiting occluded from their view. In half of the trials, subjects were also presented with an additional distinctive cup that was always visibly baited with a small reward. This cup allowed subjects the opportunity to escape from making a guess about the location of the bigger reward. All three chimpanzees and both age groups of children selected the escape cup more often when the baiting of the large reward was concealed, compared to when it was visible. This demonstrates that both species can selectively choose a guaranteed smaller reward when they do not know the location of a larger reward and provides insight into the development of metacognition.
Article
Full-text available
In everyday life, we often use external artifacts such as diaries to help us remember intended behaviors. In addition, we commonly manipulate our environment, for example by placing reminders in noticeable places. Yet strategic offloading of intentions to the external environment is not typically permitted in laboratory tasks examining memory for delayed intentions. What factors influence our use of such strategies, and what behavioral consequences do they have? This article describes four online experiments (N = 1196) examining a novel web-based task in which participants hold intentions for brief periods, with the option to strategically externalize these intentions by creating a reminder. This task significantly predicted participants’ fulfillment of a naturalistic intention embedded within their everyday activities up to one week later (with greater predictive ability than more traditional prospective memory tasks, albeit with weak effect size). Setting external reminders improved performance, and it was more prevalent in older adults. Furthermore, participants set reminders adaptively, based on a) memory load, b) the likelihood of distraction. These results suggest the importance of metacognitive processes in triggering intention offloading, which can increase the probability that intentions are eventually fulfilled.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter aims to describe two compatible but distinct movements or “waves” within the literature of the extended mind hypothesis (EM) and to defend and illustrate the interdisciplinary implications of EM as best understood by sketching two case studies. Derived from functionalist information-processing cognitive science, EM focused on the ability of man to connect with external symbols or what Merlin Donald refers to as “exograms.” Exograms enable man to create cognitive profiles, unlike creatures that are restricted to the brain’s biological memories or “engrams.” According to Donald, exograms last longer than engrams, have greater capacity, are more easily transmissible across media and context, and can be retrieved and manipulated by a greater variety of means.
Article
Full-text available
Middle childhood may be crucial for the development of metacognitive monitoring and study control processes. The first three experiments, using different materials, showed that Grade 3 and Grade 5 children exhibited excellent metacognitive resolution when asked to make delayed judgments of learning (JOLs, using an analogue scale) or binary judgments of knowing (JOKs, ‘know’ or ‘don’t know’) without the target being present. (The delayed method used here also results in excellent metacognitive resolution in adults). In three subsequent experiments after making JOLs the children were asked to choose which items they would like to restudy to optimize learning. We then either honored or dishonored the children’s restudy choices, and tested their memory performance. In Experiment 4, honoring the children’s choices made no difference to final recall performance. Experiments 5 and 6 showed that when the computer, rather than the children, chose the items for restudy based on theoretical constraints proposed by the Region of Proximal Learning model of study time allocation, the children’s recall performance improved. In all three experiments, Grade 3 children’s choices were random. Whereas the Grade 5 children showed some indication of a metacognitively guided strategy of choosing the lowest JOL items for study, it did not, consistently, improve performance. Apparently, accurate metacognitive monitoring is largely in place in middle childhood, but is not yet converted into effective implementation strategies. This dissociation between metaknowledge and its implementation in choice behavior needs to be taken into account by educators aiming to design interventions to enhance learning in children at this age.
Article
Full-text available
The goal of this paper is to develop a systematic taxonomy of cognitive artifacts, i.e., human-made, physical objects that functionally contribute to performing a cognitive task. First, I identify the target domain by conceptualizing the category of cognitive artifacts as a functional kind: a kind of artifact that is defined purely by its function. Next, on the basis of their informational properties, I develop a set of related subcategories in which cognitive artifacts with similar properties can be grouped. In this taxonomy, I distinguish between three taxa, those of family, genus, and species. The family includes all cognitive artifacts without further specifying their informational properties. Two genera are then distinguished: representational and non-representational (or ecological) cognitive artifacts. These genera are further divided into species. In case of representational artifacts, these species are iconic, indexical, or symbolic. In case of ecological artifacts, these species are spatial or structural. Within species, token artifacts are identified. The proposed taxonomy is an important first step towards a better understanding of the range and variety of cognitive artifacts and is a helpful point of departure, both for conceptualizing how different artifacts augment or impair cognitive performance and how they transform and are integrated into our cognitive system and practices.
Article
Full-text available
So far, research on children's allocation of study time has shown that, even though most young children can distinguish between easy and hard learning materials, they do not use this knowledge for further regulation of study time. To explore possible underlying mechanisms, we examined whether task characteristics can be created that facilitate children's appropriate use of study time. We investigated the effects of incentives and instructions (accuracy vs. speed emphasized) in 69 seven-year-old and 79 nine-year-old children's self-paced study times for easy (highly associated) and hard (unrelated) item pairs. Overall, the results confirm the findings obtained in previous studies, with older children differentiating more between easy and difficult learning materials in their study time. Regarding the effects of instructions, the study revealed that only 9-year-olds studied significantly longer when accuracy was emphasized. In contrast to our expectations, this increase in study time was not accompanied by an increase in subsequent recall. No differences in the study times were found as a function of presence/absence of incentives. The results are discussed both in terms of developmental progression taking place and in terms of the general theory of self-paced study time.
Article
Full-text available
An alarming number of philosophers and cognitive scientists have argued that mind extends beyond the brain and body. This book evaluates these arguments and suggests that, typically, it does not. A timely and relevant study that exposes the need to develop a more sophisticated theory of cognition, while pointing to a bold new direction in exploring the nature of cognition. Articulates and defends the &"mark of the cognitive&", a common sense theory used to distinguish between cognitive and non-cognitive processes. Challenges the current popularity of extended cognition theory through critical analysis and by pointing out fallacies and shortcoming in the literature. Stimulates discussions that will advance debate about the nature of cognition in the cognitive sciences.
Article
Full-text available
Three-year-old children were observed in two free-play sessions and participated in a toy-retrieval task, in which only one of six tools could be used to retrieve an out-of-reach toy. Boys engaged in more object-oriented play than girls and were more likely to use tools to retrieve the toy during the baseline tool-use task. All children who did not retrieve the toy during the baseline trials did so after being given a hint, and performance on a transfer-of-training tool-use task approached ceiling levels. This suggests that the sex difference in tool use observed during the baseline phase does not reflect a difference in competency, but rather a sex difference in motivation to interact with objects. Amount of time boys, but not girls, spent in object-oriented play during the free-play sessions predicted performance on the tool-use task. The findings are interpreted in terms of evolutionary theory, consistent with the idea that boys’ and girls’ play styles evolved to prepare them for adult life in traditional environments.
Article
Full-text available
76 6-8 yr olds were instructed individually to remind the experimenter to open a surprise box at the conclusion of a 7-min interval. Remembering was more frequent in an elaboration condition, in which a toy clown was used as a cue, than in a control condition. This finding is consistent with children's interview data and with data for college students showing the effects of external retrieval cues. It is argued that children's attempts at prospective remembering may be an important precursor to the development of strategies for retrospective remembering. (16 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA )
Article
Prospective memory (PM) involves both a retrospective memory component (i.e., remembering the content of a future intention) and a prospective component (i.e., detecting the appropriate cue and carrying out that intention). The current study was the first to test the effect of a single verbal reminder on 4- to 6-year-olds’ PM performance. Children were randomly assigned to: (1) a reminder about the content of an intention (retrospective memory reminder), (2) a reminder to pay attention (executive reminder), or (3) no reminder to test the predictions of the Executive Framework of PM Development (Mahy et al., 2014b) that posit a key role for executive function in PM development once retrospective memory reaches a sufficient level. Children also completed independent measures of retrospective memory and executive control. We predicted that an executive reminder should help children’s PM by increasing cue detection, whereas a retrospective memory reminder should not affect PM because by 4 children should be able to encode and store simple future intentions. Results showed that: (1) PM performance improved with age, (2) age interacted with the reminder condition, and (3) children with better executive functioning had better PM after receiving an executive reminder. These results suggest that age and individual differences play an important role in the impact reminders have on children’s PM performance.
Article
Young children typically demonstrate low rates of tool innovation. However, previous studies have limited children’s performance by presenting tools with opaque affordances. In an attempt to scaffold children’s understanding of what constitutes an appropriate tool within an innovation task we compared tools in which the focal affordance was visible to those in which it was opaque. To evaluate possible cultural specificity, data collection was undertaken in a Western urban population and a remote Indigenous community. As expected affordance visibility altered innovation rates: young children were more likely to innovate on a tool that had visible affordances than one with concealed affordances. Furthermore, innovation rates were higher than those reported in previous innovation studies. Cultural background did not affect children’s rates of tool innovation. It is suggested that new methods for testing tool innovation in children must be developed in order to broaden our knowledge of young children’s tool innovation capabilities.
Article
Previous studies have found that individuals with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) can have difficulty remembering to execute delayed intentions. However, in these studies participants were prevented from setting external reminders, whereas the use of such reminders in everyday life is commonplace (e.g. calendars, to-do lists, smartphone alerts). In the present study, 28 participants with ASC and 24 matched neurotypicals performed a task requiring them to remember delayed intentions. In the first phase participants were required to use unaided memory, whereas in the second they had the option to offload their intentions by setting reminders if they wished. Performance of the ASC group was significantly poorer than the neurotypical group in phase 1, and metacognitive evaluations of memory abilities mirrored this. Nevertheless, in the second phase, the ASC group failed to compensate for impaired performance: if anything they set fewer reminders than the neurotypical group. These results indicate that intact explicit metacognitive judgements cannot be assumed to lead directly to the use of compensatory strategies.
Article
If you have ever tilted your head to perceive a rotated image, or programmed a smartphone to remind you of an upcoming appointment, you have engaged in cognitive offloading: the use of physical action to alter the information processing requirements of a task so as to reduce cognitive demand. Despite the ubiquity of this type of behavior, it has only recently become the target of systematic investigation in and of itself. We review research from several domains that focuses on two main questions: (i) what mechanisms trigger cognitive offloading, and (ii) what are the cognitive consequences of this behavior? We offer a novel metacognitive framework that integrates results from diverse domains and suggests avenues for future research.
Article
The ways in which people learn, remember, and solve problems have all been impacted by the Internet. The present research explored how people become primed to use the Internet as a form of cognitive offloading. In three experiments, we show that using the Internet to retrieve information alters a person's propensity to use the Internet to retrieve other information. Specifically, participants who used Google to answer an initial set of difficult trivia questions were more likely to decide to use Google when answering a new set of relatively easy trivia questions than were participants who answered the initial questions from memory. These results suggest that relying on the Internet to access information makes one more likely to rely on the Internet to access other information.
Book
There is a new way of thinking about the mind that does not locate mental processes exclusively "in the head." Some think that this expanded conception of the mind will be the basis of a new science of the mind. In this book, leading philosopher Mark Rowlands investigates the conceptual foundations of this new science of the mind. The new way of thinking about the mind emphasizes the ways in which mental processes are embodied (made up partly of extraneural bodily structures and processes), embedded (designed to function in tandem with the environment), enacted (constituted in part by action), and extended (located in the environment). The new way of thinking about the mind, Rowlands writes, is actually an old way of thinking that has taken on new form. Rowlands describes a conception of mind that had its clearest expression in phenomenology -- in the work of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. He builds on these views, clarifies and renders consistent the ideas of embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended mind, and develops a unified philosophical treatment of the novel conception of the mind that underlies the new science of the mind.
Article
Where are the borders of mind and where does the rest of the world begin? There are two standard answers possible: Some philosophers argue that these borders are defined by our scull and skin. Everything outside the body is also outside the mind. The others argue that the meanings of our words "simply are not in our heads" and insist that this meaning externalism applies also to the mind. The authors are suggesting a third position, i.e. quite another form of externalism. Their so called active externalism implies an active involvement of the background in controlling the cognitive processes.
Article
This chapter focus is laid on the development of memory skills when children are confronted with a task or a situation in which learning or remembering certain target information is crucial. It presents important milestones toward self-regulated learning skills. The chapter discusses precursors of later strategic behaviors and metacognitive skills, the distinct research methods suitable to assessing early indicators of deliberate memory skills, as well as their importance for the emerging memory skills. It outlines the challenges arising from the application of deliberate memory skills in naturalistic, complex task contexts. The chapter adopted an explicit developmental perspective of memory strategies and metacognition in deliberate memory situations.
Article
How do we decide whether to use external artifacts and reminders to remember delayed intentions, versus relying on unaided memory? Experiment 1 (N=400) showed that participants’ choice to forgo reminders in an experimental task was independently predicted by subjective confidence and objective ability, even when the two measures were themselves uncorrelated. Use of reminders improved performance, explaining significant variance in intention fulfilment even after controlling for unaided ability. Experiment 2 (N=303) additionally investigated a pair of unrelated perceptual discrimination tasks, where the confidence and sensitivity of metacognitive judgments was decorrelated from objective performance using a staircase procedure. Participants with lower confidence in their perceptual judgments set more reminders in the delayed-intention task, even though confidence was unrelated to objective accuracy. However, memory confidence was a better predictor of reminder setting. Thus, propensity to set reminders was independently influenced by a) domain-general metacognitive confidence; b) task-specific confidence; and c) objective ability.
Article
How do we decide whether to use external artifacts and reminders to remember delayed intentions, versus relying on unaided memory? Experiment 1 (N=400) showed that participants’ choice to forgo reminders in an experimental task was independently predicted by subjective confidence and objective ability, even when the two measures were themselves uncorrelated. Use of reminders improved performance, explaining significant variance in intention fulfilment even after controlling for unaided ability. Experiment 2 (N=303) additionally investigated a pair of unrelated perceptual discrimination tasks, where the confidence and sensitivity of metacognitive judgments was decorrelated from objective performance using a staircase procedure. Participants with lower confidence in their perceptual judgments set more reminders in the delayed-intention task, even though confidence was unrelated to objective accuracy. However, memory confidence was a better predictor of reminder setting. Thus, propensity to set reminders was independently influenced by a) domain-general metacognitive confidence; b) task-specific confidence; and c) objective ability.
Article
How do we decide whether to use external artifacts and reminders to remember delayed intentions, versus relying on unaided memory? Experiment 1 (N=400) showed that participants’ choice to forgo reminders in an experimental task was independently predicted by subjective confidence and objective ability, even when the two measures were themselves uncorrelated. Use of reminders improved performance, explaining significant variance in intention fulfilment even after controlling for unaided ability. Experiment 2 (N=303) additionally investigated a pair of unrelated perceptual discrimination tasks, where the confidence and sensitivity of metacognitive judgments was decorrelated from objective performance using a staircase procedure. Participants with lower confidence in their perceptual judgments set more reminders in the delayed-intention task, even though confidence was unrelated to objective accuracy. However, memory confidence was a better predictor of reminder setting. Thus, propensity to set reminders was independently influenced by a) domain-general metacognitive confidence; b) task-specific confidence; and c) objective ability.
Article
Trail pheromones do more than simply guide social insect workers from point A to point B. Recent research has revealed additional ways in which they help to regulate colony foraging, often via positive and negative feedback processes that influence the exploitation of the different resources that a colony has knowledge of. Trail pheromones are often complementary or synergistic with other information sources, such as individual memory. Pheromone trails can be composed of two or more pheromones with different functions, and information may be embedded in the trail network geometry. These findings indicate remarkable sophistication in how trail pheromones are used to regulate colony-level behavior, and how trail pheromones are used and deployed at the individual level. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Entomology Volume 60 is January 07, 2014. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
Book
When historian Charles Weiner found pages of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman's notes, he saw it as a "record" of Feynman's work. Feynman himself, however, insisted that the notes were not a record but the work itself. In Supersizing the Mind, Andy Clark argues that our thinking doesn't happen only in our heads but that "certain forms of human cognizing include inextricable tangles of feedback, feed-forward and feed-around loops: loops that promiscuously criss-cross the boundaries of brain, body and world." The pen and paper of Feynman's thought are just such feedback loops, physical machinery that shape the flow of thought and enlarge the boundaries of mind. Drawing upon recent work in psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, human-computer systems, and beyond, Supersizing the Mind offers both a tour of the emerging cognitive landscape and a sustained argument in favor of a conception of mind that is extended rather than "brain- bound." The importance of this new perspective is profound. If our minds themselves can include aspects of our social and physical environments, then the kinds of social and physical environments we create can reconfigure our minds and our capacity for thought and reason.
Article
Advocates of extended cognition argue that the boundaries of cognition span brain, body, and environment. Critics maintain that cognitive processes are confined to a boundary centered on the individual. All participants to this debate require a criterion for distinguishing what is internal to cognition from what is external. Yet none of the available proposals are completely successful. I offer a new account, the mutual manipulability account, according to which cognitive boundaries are determined by relationships of mutual manipulability between the properties and activities of putative components and the overall behavior of the cognitive mechanism in which they figure. Among its main advantages, this criterion is capable of (a) distinguishing components of cognition from causal background conditions and lower-level correlates, and (b) showing how the core hypothesis of extended cognition can serve as a legitimate empirical hypothesis amenable to experimental test and confirmation. Conceiving the debate in these terms transforms the current clash over extended cognition into a substantive empirical debate resolvable on the basis of evidence from cognitive science and neuroscience.
Book
The seemingly innocent observation that the activities of organisms bring about changes in environments is so obvious that it seems an unlikely focus for a new line of thinking about evolution. Yet niche construction--as this process of organism-driven environmental modification is known--has hidden complexities. By transforming biotic and abiotic sources of natural selection in external environments, niche construction generates feedback in evolution on a scale hitherto underestimated--and in a manner that transforms the evolutionary dynamic. It also plays a critical role in ecology, supporting ecosystem engineering and influencing the flow of energy and nutrients through ecosystems. Despite this, niche construction has been given short shrift in theoretical biology, in part because it cannot be fully understood within the framework of standard evolutionary theory. Wedding evolution and ecology, this book extends evolutionary theory by formally including niche construction and ecological inheritance as additional evolutionary processes. The authors support their historic move with empirical data, theoretical population genetics, and conceptual models. They also describe new research methods capable of testing the theory. They demonstrate how their theory can resolve long-standing problems in ecology, particularly by advancing the sorely needed synthesis of ecology and evolution, and how it offers an evolutionary basis for the human sciences. Already hailed as a pioneering work by some of the world's most influential biologists, this is a rare, potentially field-changing contribution to the biological sciences.
Article
This paper discusses two perspectives, each of which recognises the importance of environmental resources in enhancing and amplifying our cognitive capacity. One is the Clark–Chalmers model, extended further by Clark and others. The other derives from niche construction models of evolution, models which emphasise the role of active agency in enhancing the adaptive fit between agent and world. In the human case, much niche construction is epistemic: making cognitive tools and assembling other informational resources that support and scaffold intelligent action. I shall argue that extended mind cases are limiting cases of environmental scaffolding, and while the extended mind picture is not false, the niche construction model is a more helpful framework for understanding human action. KeywordsExtended mind-Externalism-Niche construction-Social learning
Article
Two interrelated aspects of allocation of study time were examined in grades 1, 3, 5, and 7 children: (a) distributing study time so that more difficult units were given more emphasis than others (differential allocation) and (b) determining how much time to spend for studying in order to meet the study goal (sufficient allocation). Children were asked to study a set of booklets (one “easy” or highly related and one “hard” or unrelated) of paired-associate items until they were sure they could remember all the pairs perfectly. While grades 1 and 3 children spent approximately the same amount of time on hard pairs as they spent on easy pairs, grades 5 and 7 children spent a greater amount of time on hard pairs than they did on easy pairs. Age-related improvement in allocation of sufficient time was evidenced by the significantly higher number of older children (grades 5 and 7) than younger children (grades 1 and 3) achieving perfect recall. Older students also exhibited a greater knowledge of and tendency to use self-testing strategies to monitor how well learned items were. It should be noted, however, that even many of the older children were not entirely successful at recalling the items perfectly.