Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




William A. Roberts


Metacognition is awareness of what one does and does not know. Students given a choice between studying material they have learned well and material they have learned poorly prefer to study the less mastered material (Metcalfe, 2009). Recent studies suggest that primates also know about the state of their own knowledge and will seek unknown information to complete a task (Call & Carpenter, 2001; Hampton et al., 2004). Two experimental paradigms can be used to test for the presence of metacognition within a species: uncertainty tasks and information seeking tasks. Uncertainty tasks ask animals to judge their confidence in the information that they possess. Information-seeking studies ask animals to recognize that they have insufficient information to complete a task and then study their response to such a situation. To form a strong argument for the presence of metacognition within a species, both metacognition tasks should be investigated. I used a radial arm maze to look for information-seeking behaviour in rats. Each maze arm had a bulb mounted on it to serve as a signal light. Rats were trained to go to whichever arm was lit on a trial for reward. They then were trained to press a bar in the maze hub that led to immediate food reward and turned on a light in one randomly chosen arm of the maze. Once the rats learned to press the bar, the reward for bar pressing was discontinued. I report on the rats’ readiness to press the bar for information about the location of reward under conditions that varied the presence or absence information and amount of information to be gained.