What is metacognition?

clinical psychologist and online educator, dr. julie, joinED us on THE PODCAST this week and shared many tools we can use – that if used regularly – can have a real impact on our mental health. 

Amongst the many things we learned from Dr. Julie, including CBT exercises and ‘The Boring Basics’, we gained an understanding of a new word – metacognition.  Here’s what we know so far…

‘Metacognition is the process of thinking about one’s own thinking…’

It refers to the ability to reflect on your own thoughts and then more helpfully monitor and control them. In other words, it’s the ability to think about thinking. Who’d have thought it?!

Metacognition is all about having knowledge of our own cognitive processes and it is a skill that’s purely for us humans; animals don’t possess such expertise over their own minds.

The technique helps gain an understanding of knowledge and self-awareness, which determine what strategies and problem-solving techniques you use to respond to certain situations in the future.

One of the key components of metacognition is metacognitive knowledge – that’s your ability to perceive your own cognitive processes and use this knowledge to monitor your reactions. This includes knowing how memory works, how to plan and organise information, and how to monitor and evaluate your understanding of situations.

Some simple examples of every day metacognition include:

  • awareness that you have difficulty remembering people’s names in social situations!
  • reminding yourself that you should try to remember the name of a person you just met
  • realising that you know an answer to a question but simply can’t recall it at the moment
  • realising that there is something wrong with your solution to a problem.

“That’s what you do in therapy, you look at what you’re feeling right now and what are the thoughts that are going with that? And where do you feel that in your body? So you’re stepping back from your experience and observing it. And it’s by doing that, that you get to see it for what it is. And then you get choices to behave or act based on other knowledge or hindsight and awareness, rather than impulsively or just in response to your emotion” – Dr. Julie

There are several metacognitive strategies that can be used to enhance learning and problem-solving. These include:

  • Planning: Setting goals and creating a plan for achieving them.
  • Monitoring: Paying attention to a concept and checking your understanding of it.
  • Evaluating: Reflecting and determining if further learning is needed.
  • Reflecting: Thinking about how your thinking has changed or developed over time.

Metacognition is key to how we learn from our experiences, as it allows us to reflect on our own mental processes. By understanding metacognitive strategies, we can step back and observe our experiences and create an awareness of how we’d like to react to them next time.

Have you heard of metacognition? To learn more from Dr. Julie check out the full episode of Happy Place wherever you get your podcasts, or watch it on our YouTube channel.

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