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Choice latency as a cue for children’s subjective confidence in the correctness of their answers


Asher Koriat, Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel, 31905; e-mail:


Research with adults indicates that confidence in the correctness of an answer decreases as a function of the amount of time it takes to reach that answer, suggesting that people use response latency as a mnemonic cue for subjective confidence. Experiment 1 extended investigation to 2nd, 3rd and 5th graders. When children chose the answer to general knowledge questions, their confidence in the answer was inversely related to choice latency. However, the strength of the relationship increased with grade, suggesting increased reliance with age on the feedback from task performance. The validity of latency as a cue for the accuracy of the answer also increased with age, possibly contributing to the observed age increase in the extent to which confidence judgment discriminated between correct and wrong answers. Whereas these results illustrate the dependence of metacognitive monitoring on the feedback from control operations, Experiments 2 and 3 examined the idea that control-based monitoring affects subsequent control operations. When children were free to choose which answers to volunteer under a payoff schedule that emphasized accuracy, they tended to volunteer high-confidence answers more than low-confidence answers (Experiment 2) and more short-latency answers than long-latency answers (Experiment 3). The latter tendency was again stronger for older than for younger children. The results are discussed in terms of the intricate relationships between monitoring and control processes.