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Metacognition, Metamemory, and Mindreading in High-Functioning Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Grainger, C., Williams, D. M. & Lind, S. E. (2014). Metacognition, Metamemory, and Mindreading in High-Functioning Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(3), pp. 650-659. doi: 10.1037/a0036531


Objectives: Metacognition refers to cognition about cognition, and encompasses both knowledge of cognitive processes and the ability to monitor and control one’s own cognitions. The current study aimed to establish whether metacognition is impaired in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to some theories, the ability to represent one’s own mental states (an aspect of metacognition) relies on the same mechanism as the ability to represent others’ mental states (“mindreading”). Given numerous studies have shown mindreading is impaired in ASD, there is good reason to predict concurrent impairments in metacognition. Metacognition is most commonly explored in the context of memory, often by assessing people’s ability to monitor their memory processes. The current study addressed the question of whether people with ASD have difficulty monitoring the contents of their memory (alongside impaired mindreading).

Method: Eighteen intellectually high-functioning adults with ASD and 18 IQ- and age-matched neurotypical adults participated. Metamemory monitoring ability and mindreading ability were assessed using a feeling-of-knowing task and the “animations” task, respectively. Participants also completed a self-report measure of metacognitive ability.

Results: In addition to showing impaired mindreading, participants with ASD made significantly less accurate feeling-of-knowing judgements than neurotypical adults, suggesting that metamemory monitoring (an aspect of metacognition) was impaired. Conversely, participants with ASD self-reported superior metacognitive abilities compared to those reported by neurotypical participants.

Conclusion: This study provides evidence that individuals with ASD have metamemory monitoring impairments. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings for our current understanding of metacognition in ASD and typical development are discussed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Publisher Keywords: Autism, metacognition, metamemory, feeling-of-knowing, theory-of-mind, mindreading
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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