Metacognition and Cognitive Neuropsychology: Monitoring and Control Processes

Metacognition and Cognitive Neuropsychology: Monitoring and Control Processes

Metacognition and Cognitive Neuropsychology: Monitoring and Control Processes

Metacognition and Cognitive Neuropsychology: Monitoring and Control Processes


Control processes are those mental functions that allow us to initiate, monitor, and prioritize mental activities. They are crucial to normal mental functioning. A better understanding of the nature of control processes and their deficits is important for clinical work and for an adequate theory of consciousness.

Previously, control processes have been examined within the frameworks of two parallel but independent paradigms: those of cognitive psychology and of neuropsychology. Cognitive psychologists have stressed the theoretical and empirical nature of normal unimpaired control processes; neuropsychologists have focused on the relationships between damage to specific functional areas of the brain and deficits in specific control processes. Both have contributed extensively to our understanding of control processes. However, they have tended to operate independently, with little if any cross-talk between disciplines, despite the potential benefits such dialogue is likely to generate.

This book represents the first attempt to synthesize cognitive and neuropsychological perspectives on control processes. It contains state-of-the-art reports on various aspects of control processes by experts from both disciplines.


In the last two decades empirical efforts to understand cognitive monitoring and control processes have multiplied in the areas of metacognition and cognitive neuropsychology. However, researchers in these areas frequently used different conceptualizations of monitoring and of control, and even different labels for what might be the same cognitive activities. The combination of common interest with diverging approaches gave impetus to a conference during June 1994 at the University of Firenze, Italy, where scholars from both areas were brought together to discuss their research on cognitive monitoring and control processes. The goals were to facilitate synergistic activity and to determine some common starting points for future research.

Previous books on metacognition have contributed a set of core readings for researchers interested in metacognition (Nelson, 1992) and have described the state of the art of research on several aspects of metacognition (Metcalfe & Shimamura, 1994; Reder, 1996). But how should we conceptualize the cognitive monitoring of oneself, and the control of one's own cognitive processes? How are those activities reflected in brain functioning? The following chapters describe some current attempts to move toward answers to those questions.

In the first chapter, Schneider, taking off from the framework on metacognition proposed by Nelson and Narens (1990), focuses on developmental changes during childhood in the interaction between cognitive monitoring and control. This chapter is useful as a springboard for comparing what develops during childhood and what is seen to decline or disintegrate in patients with neuropsychological deficits.

The chapter by Hall and Bahrick illustrates the critical effect of training and the potential role of cognitive monitoring and control over long-term retention intervals.

The chapter by Umiltà and Stablum reviews several conceptualizations of cognitive control processes and proposes a new method to assess control deficits in closed-head-injury patients. These authors highlight the role of frontal lobe processing for cognitive and, potentially, metacognitive control processes.

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