Metacognition is a construct that has received considerable attention in developmental psychology, including psychological gerontology – the science of aging. As I treat it here, metacognition is a broad umbrella term that covers several related constructs: knowledge about cognition, beliefs (both about oneself and about cognition in general), and monitoring (Hertzog and Hultsch, 2000). Much of the emphasis in studies of aging and metacognition has been placed on the role of beliefs about memory and aging, both in oneself and others, and how those beliefs may influence beliefs about one's own cognitive functioning. Traditionally, beliefs have played less of a role in research by experimental psychologists interested in metacognition. This line of theory and research has typically focused on processes of awareness and judgment concerning the status of the cognitive system, concentrating on the constructs of monitoring and control achieved via utilization of monitoring (e.g. Nelson, 1996). This state of affairs seems to be changing, as scientists interested in metacognition have begun to consider the potential importance of constructs such as causal attributions in explaining the accuracy or inaccuracy of measures of monitoring (e.g. Koriat, Goldsmith, and Pansky, 2000).
The construct of metacognition has appeared in a wide variety of theoretical treatments of cognition, including theories of intelligence and problem solving (e.g. Davidson and Sternberg, 1998). For the purposes of this chapter, I focus more narrowly on the domains of learning and memory.