Rakefet Ackerman (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology): “Metacognitive regulation of mental effort”
Performing a mental task, such as learning or solving a problem, entails a challenge beyond performance of the task itself – namely, to effectively regulate the investment of mental effort needed to achieve the desired goal. According to the metacognitive approach, people performing such a task continually monitor their progress, and this subjective assessment is the basis for regulatory decisions such as what strategy to choose, whether to invest additional effort, and whether to seek help. Crucially, the effectiveness of effort regulation depends on the reliability of this ongoing monitoring process: Unreliable monitoring will mislead the resulting regulatory decisions. In this talk, I will discuss the underlying processes involved in effort regulation: Is effort investment an intentional regulatory process directed toward achieving a goal, or do people first invest effort spontaneously and then infer their chance of success? I will present empirical findings suggesting that both processes take place, but the delicate balance between them is task-dependent and develops only in late childhood. Understanding the processes that underlie this delicate balance might be enhanced through a cross-cultural approach. More broadly, understanding cross-cultural differences in metacognitive regulation of mental effort is expected to expose general factors that promote reliable knowledge assessment and effective effort regulation.