Meta-cognition in Animals: A Skeptical Look


  • I am grateful to José Bermúdez, Robert Lurz, Jeffrey Stevens, and two anonymous referees for their comments on an earlier version of this article.

Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Abstract:  This paper examines the recent literature on meta-cognitive processes in non-human animals, arguing that in each case the data admit of a simpler, purely first-order, explanation. The topics discussed include the alleged monitoring of states of certainty and uncertainty, knowledge-seeking behavior in conditions of uncertainty, and the capacity to know whether or not the information needed to solve some problem is stored in memory. The first-order explanations advanced all assume that beliefs and desires come in various different strengths, or degrees.