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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although metacognition is considered to be the highest human cognitive function and a crucial self-reflective function allowing us to have free will, finding where this modern “pineal gland” resides in the brain is an enterprise fraught with peril. Searching for metacognition in the brain is like searching for the Holy Grail: It always seems to be in the next valley. We focus on two considerations. First, metacognitions are conscious. They spontaneously occur when something goes wrong, and conflict-based “feeling states” are manifest. We argue that when metacognitive feelings are spontaneous, feeling states are adaptive because they trigger action needed to resolve conflict. Conscious feeling states are, therefore, related to the control functions of metacognition. Second, metacognitive feelings are self-referential. They refer to the core person and indicate that conflict being experienced is a potential threat to the self. These two considerations drive our search for neural activations related to metacognition.

Keywords: metacognition, metamemory, consciousness, anterior cingulate cortex, BA 10

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