During my training, I was required to undertake a National exam. Before the exam, I took time off work so that I could focus on study. Following my studies, I was exhausted, but I was also confident. While I didn’t know everything, I assessed that I had sufficient knowledge to pass the exam. Strange, I was able to assess my levels of knowledge, memories and understanding of abstract concepts to predict a future outcome, this is metacognition, and thankfully I passed the exam.

 Metacognition depends on the ability to evaluate or monitor one’s cognitive processes, such as one’s thoughts and memories, so that a reasonable assessment can be made about future performance (Shimamura 2000).

So how did I know that I had studied enough to be able to pass the exam? Nelson and Narens (1990) proposed metacognition as the interplay between Object-level systems and meta-level systems. The Object-level system is full of mental representations and semantic memories, information. The meta-level system acts as a supervisor of the information in determining volume, efficiency, quality, accessibility and salience. Metacognition, therefore, controls the flow of information and can interpret it to make future predictions.

Understanding that metacognition is like a supervisor for our information processing systems it is then not hard to see how central it is about psychopathology and general wellbeing. Like any workplace, the biggest predictor of well-being is the leadership. If my supervisor told me to stop studying before I had reached a critical knowledge point, I could have failed. If my supervisor had continued to whip me into memorisation and endless study, I could have grown fatigued and anxious.

Awareness of our metacognitions is vital in understanding your thought processes and then also be able to execute a level of control. Metacognitions can give us a healthy range of choices about future decisions when not distorted. Most of all metacognitions equal empowerment in that we are not a slave to our thoughts or memories, we are our diplomat that navigates the complexity of information processing.



Nelson, T.O, & Narens, L. (1990). Metamemory: A theoretical framework and new findings. Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 26, 125-141.

Shimamura, A. P. (2000). What is metacognition? The brain knows. The American Journal of Psychology, 113(1), 142-146. Retrieved from