Implicit Memory and Metacognition

By Lynne M. Reder | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
Retrieval Fluency as a Metacognitive Index

Aaron S. Benjamin Robert A. Bjork University of California, Los Angeles

How readily information "comes to mind" is one index humans use to assess the accuracy of that information and, more generally, the adequacy of their own state of knowledge in a given domain. Such retrieval fluency provides, in fact, a useful heuristic: In general, information that is better learned, more recent, and more strongly associated to the cues guiding recall (or any combination of the three) will tend to be more readily retrievable. Fluent retrieval can, however, reflect factors unrelated to accuracy or degree of prior learning. In that sense, making appropriate use of retrieval fluency (or the lack thereof) as a metacognitive index becomes a problem of inference.

There are both practical and theoretical reasons why it is important to understand the metacognitive assumptions that underlie such inferential processes. On the practical side, understanding these processes can enable us to better construct regimens of training and practice that educate the learner's subjective experience as well as objective performance. As Jacoby, Bjork, and Kelley ( 1994) have emphasized recently, the reading an individual takes of his or her level of comprehension and competence can be as important as his or her actual comprehension or competence. The kinds of tasks for which we volunteer, whether we seek additional instruction, and whether we see ourselves "fit" for a difficult task, all rest on our reading of our state of knowledge or efficiency. To the degree that such readings may be in error, we can become a liability or hazard to ourselves and others,

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