Animal Metacognition

Are animals aware of what they are aware of?

purpose of this website:

generate and improve designs of animal metacognition experiments

gather, analyze, and discuss volunteered information about pet behavior suggestive of metacognition

Is your dog aware of what she knows?

Interpretations of Pet Behavior Survey [under revision]

Types of Experiments

Uncertainty: Does animal increasingly decline test (for guaranteed but lesser reward) when test is increasingly difficult?

Question: Would this show the animal was aware of her own representation of her chances of success?

alternative to metacognition interpretation:

animal's weaker desire for declining reward combined with strong belief it will get declining reward

outweighs strong desire for success reward when combined with weak belief in success


Considerations for our current "Uncertainty" research:

Does stronger preference for better declining reward (though still less than success reward) correlate with more frequent declining?

Foote, Allison L., and Jonathon D. Crystal. “Metacognition in the Rat.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2007, doi:10.1037/e603982013-081.


Information-Seeking: Does animal seek information she lacks to obtain reward?

Question: Would this show the animal had a mental representation of her own lack of knowledge?

alternative to metacognition interpretation:

a) search behavior is (automatically) initiated when animal is uncertain about where reward is

b) desire to search for food outweighs desire to move toward food when location of food is unknown


Considerations for our current "Information Seeking" research:

Would animals' looking to humans for clues when uncertain be evidence against a) ?

Would animals' low-risk searching when location of food is known be evidence against b) ?

Do disjunctive inferences show animal has representation of knowledge she lacks?

Royka, Amanda L., et al. “Metacognition in Canids: A Comparison of Dogs (Canis Familiaris) and Dingoes (Canis Dingo).” Journal of Comparative Psychology, vol. 134, no. 3, 2020, pp. 303–317., doi:10.1037/com0000246.

Results and Analyses

(sample pilot studies for experimentation refinement purposes)

Testing animal metacognition rigorously faces methodological and philosophical challenges